This has been a really, really crummy day.
We occasionally agree to go off the record with someone, though far less often than some people may think; and when we do, we never violate the confidentiality of that source. We just don’t — we wouldn’t have anyone talking to us if we burned sources or reneged on agreements.
And then every once in a while it works the other way.
I came across a potentially good story a ways back while reading a public body’s board minutes online, something I do on a regular basis.
I called the public institution, which was quite taken aback to find that the information had ended up in the public domain. It wasn’t ready to go ahead with the project in the minutes, hadn’t intended that it be posted, and asked if I would agree to hold off until the project was ready to proceed.
Short version, at the request of the public institution, I agreed not to publish right away, in return for a promise that when the institution was ready to go public, I would get an exclusive ahead of all the other media, with more detailed information that would make a better story.
I checked back every few months, and was told that the institution wasn’t ready to go, but don’t worry, we had an agreement that I would get it first.
So this morning I’m at home, working on a 2-10 p.m. shift the next two weeks; I get an email from my editors, and the public institution has called a noon news conference to announce something major to all the media at the same time. The subject is pretty obvious.
And the people at the institution?
Nothing they could do, they tell me --- my deal was with them alone, and not with them and their never-before-mentioned partner in the project.