Off the Record

The Press, the Government, and the War over Anonymous Sources by Norman Pearlstine

  • Published: Aug 14, 2020

When Norman Pearlstineas editor in chief of Time Inc. agreed to give prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald a reporter's notes of a conversation with a "confidential source," he was vilified for betraying the freedom of the press. But in this... read more

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Details of Off the Record

Exact title of the book
Off the Record
Book author
Norman Pearlstine
ISBN
9780374708344
Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published
Jun 26, 2007
Language
English
Format
PDF, FB2, EPUB, MOBI
Pages
304
File size (in PDF)
2736 kB

Some brief overview of book

When Norman Pearlstineas editor in chief of Time Inc. agreed to give prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald a reporter's notes of a conversation with a "confidential source," he was vilified for betraying the freedom of the press. But in this hard-hitting inside story, Pearlstine shows that "Plamegate" was not the clear case it seemed to beand that confidentiality has become a weapon in the White House's war on the press, a war fought with the unwitting complicity of the press itself. Watergate and the publication of the Pentagon Papers are the benchmark incidents of government malfeasance exposed by a fearless press.

But as Pearlstine explains with great clarity and brio, the press's hunger for a new Watergate has made reporters vulnerable to officials who use confidentiality to get their message out, even if it means leaking state secrets and breaking the law. Prosecutors appointed to investigate the government have investigated the press instead; news organizations such as The New York Times have defended the principle of confidentiality at all costsimplicitly putting themselves above the law. Meanwhile, the use of unnamed sources has become common in everything from celebrity weeklies to the so-called papers of record.

What is to be done? Pearlstine calls on Congress to pass a federal shield law protecting journalists from the needless intrusions of government; at the same time, he calls on the press to name its sources whenever possible. Off the Record is a powerful argument with the vividness and narrative drive of the best long-form journalism; it is sure to spark controversy among the people who run the governmentand among the people who tell their stories.

About author

Pearlstine, editor in chief of Time Inc. from 1995 to 2005, was previously the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal; he trained as a lawyer before making his career as a journalist. He is now a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group. He lives in Manhattan.

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