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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Ground Rules for Interviewing State Department Officials


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Ground RulesGround rules must be agreed upon at the beginning of a conversation or an interview with State Department officials. The discussion should proceed only after you and the officials are clear on exactly how the information can be used or attributed.

On the Record
Information may be quoted directly and attributed to the official by name and title.

On Background
The official's remarks may be quoted directly or paraphrased and are attributed to a "State Department official" or "Administration official," as determined by the official.

On Deep Background
The source cannot be quoted or identified in any manner, not even as "an unnamed source." The information is usually couched in such phrases as "it is understood that" or "it has been learned." The information may be used to help present the story or to gain a better understanding of the subject, but the knowledge is that of the reporter, not the source.

Off the Record
Nothing of what the journalist is told may be used in the story. The information is meant only for the education of the reporter.

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