The Press: On the Record

Al Smith's frequent use of the phrase "off the record" gave a new boost to an old, and often helpful, journalistic practice. It permitted top Government officials to let down their hair before the press —without getting into trouble in the process. By giving a frank—and unquotable—explanation of the background behind official actions, bigwigs had often helped reporters do a better job of interpreting the news. But the handy phrase has long since gotten out of hand. Last week Managing Editor Norman E. Isaacs of the St. Louis Star-Times charged that editors who persisted in kowtowing to "off the record"...

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