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No such thing as ‘off the record’


Joe B. Coates, publisher

One of the least favorite phrases, if not THE least, of reporters, is “Now, this is off the record.” Another one is “I don’t want this in the paper, but. . .”.  Much of the time one of these is said by an employee of a government agency or one who is in an elected position, perhaps about an upcoming public works project or to preface a statement on some type of criminal investigation.  Heck, I’ve even heard mayors and aldermen say as much in an open meeting.
Lately, for example, these words or similar have been coming from Hazlehurst City School District conservator Jimmy Hopkins–well, he’s not the only one of the conservators over 4 years of state control, just the latest one, who has prefaced with such wishes–when asked why so much employee turnover, including in positions of administration, is occurring right before the start of a new school year (see front page story.)  When told that everything he says is ‘on the record’, Hopkins, like his predecessors, clams up.
Continually asking to be ‘off the record’ like these conservators have is a slap in the face to all the stakeholders of the district, not just to the newspaper staff.  The state should know better.

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