On the Record: The Eagle’s guide to our reporting and interviewing
Frequently asked questions to help increase the AU community’s comfort level with The Eagle
When this column first began in 2020, it was intended to provide more transparency to readers about how The Eagle made decisions and to offer insight into our reporting processes. Since then, this column has discussed decision-making in breaking news stories, student government endorsements and our role in covering underrepresented communities.
News organizations’ ethics codes stipulate what reporters can and cannot do — guidelines that help us do our jobs better, and contain varying levels of detail from organization to organization. As much as journalists are prepared to report stories, there seems to be little guidance from news organizations on things that sources for stories should know as well. Following conversations with groups across campus as well as in our newsroom, I’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions I hope will help the AU community feel more comfortable and better equipped to speak with The Eagle moving forward.
Why me? Why does The Eagle want to talk to me?
Being interviewed is an opportunity to tell your story, share your opinion and speak about an issue that you have opinions on or experiences with. You are the expert here, and we want to know what you have to say.
What does “on the record” mean?
On the record means that interviewees can be named and their words attributed to them directly. This is always our preference. As a general rule, The Eagle considers interviews with University officials to be on the record by default unless the official explicitly asks for it to be otherwise.
What does “off the record” mean?
Off the record means that nothing from the conversation can be used in publication from that specific source. Being off the record is a mutual agreement between the source and the reporter. The terms of being off the record must be mutually agreed to, and we seek to use this arrangement as infrequently as possible.
Why do journalists ask to record interviews?
Journalists ask to record interviews to ensure accuracy in our reporting. This is also for legal and ethical reasons. Legally, certain states require both parties to consent to an audio recording of a conversation. D.C. requires only one-party consent, but asking the other person if it is okay to record the conversation helps establish trust between the source and the reporter. Unless the interview is also being used for a podcast or other audio component to a story, the direct audio will not be published. Recording the interview protects both us as journalists and you as a source.
Why can’t I read the story before it gets printed?
In order to remain as independent, fair and balanced as possible, we don’t allow our sources to read a story in its entirety before it gets published. In some cases, reporters and editors may follow up with those who are quoted in a story to fact-check something that was said during the interview, clarify a piece of information or ask follow-up questions.
If I say “don’t put this in the article” will The Eagle honor that request?
Like asking to speak off the record, this requires an agreement from the reporter and the source.
Why do I sometimes see words in quotes that are bracketed? What does this mean?
When a quote makes a reference to something that might be unclear, reporters may add brackets to make clear what the quote was referring to. For example:
“It was a nice day outside,” said John Smith, a senior in the School of Public Affairs
“[Tuesday] was a nice day outside,” said John Smith, a senior in the School of Public Affairs.
Have other questions you’d like to see answered or feedback? Readers are encouraged to submit questions or feedback to myself or Editor-in-Chief Clare Mulroy (firstname.lastname@example.org). We welcome your thoughts on how to better report the news and serve our community.