In his big national security speech last week, President Obama promised that Attorney General Eric Holder would meet with members of the press to “review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters.” Michael Calderone says this isn’t unusual:
When the press and government are battling over issues of access or press freedom, it’s common to bring in top Washington-based editors and executives in hopes of coming to a resolution.
I didn’t know this, actually, and I’m curious about how often meetings like this take place. Whatever the answer, it turns out that this one won’t include the New York Times, which says it “isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off the record meeting with the attorney general.” AP agrees. This suggests that past meetings like this have been on the record. Is there an old-timer out there who can give us the skinny on this?
In any case, here’s the interesting thing about whether this meeting is on or off the record: I doubt that it matters much to Holder. He’s basically asking for input into revised policies, not making news or committing himself to anything. But it might matter to the editors who attend. After all, if the meeting is on the record, they’re pretty constrained in what they can say. How likely is it that they can be candid if they know they’re speaking for public consumption? Not very, I’d guess.