The most powerful man in journalism had to decide on Sunday morning whether to keep a promise to the most powerful man in the world to keep a conversation off-the-record. It was a no-brainer for A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, to break his promise to the president of the United States.
It brought to mind a different decision, made nine months ago by The Washington Post, to break an off-the-record promise to a source who turned out to be lying in an attempt to plant a story, in order to discredit the Post.
It’s a good reminder for journalists everywhere that while off-record-promises are critical to our credibility, they are not sacrosanct. Instead they are part of a two-way street. And these two examples are the most common reasons for journalists to break the promise.
If the source is proven to be lying, the promise is not valid. And if the source discusses the conversation on the record, then the promise is also no longer valid.
When can you break a promise to a source to keep something confidential? Those two reasons are pretty much the whole list. A third possibility might be if you and the source mutually agree to go public, but that’s not really breaking a promise, it’s renegotiating a deal.
But there was no renegotiating the arrangement between Sulzberger and Trump. Instead there were actions and reactions. At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, President Donald Trump casually tweeted that he’d met with Sulzberger to discuss “fake news,” thus
Read more here: https://www.poynter.org/news/how-and-when-break-your-record-promises