I’ve had some cheap fun in the past mocking the relatively new rule that many newspapers have implemented that requires reporters to publicly state a reason that they are accepting an off-the-record quote. Like: ‘an administration official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter…”
One of the oft-used reasons is to get a more candid quote. It’s kinda pitiful to acknowledge this, but many news sources won’t tell you what they really think or what they really know if they know it is going to be attributed to them by name.
Here’s an example where the trade was worth it. In a New York Times piece yesterday setting up the confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (which being Monday), reporter Neil Lewis was trying to communicate what he certainly figured out. Sotomayor will be confirmed after token resistence from a few Repub senators. He got across everything he needed with an excellent anonymity-for-candor quote that went something like this:
“A senior Republican Senate staff aide said no one believed the Sotomayor nomination could be derailed. ‘The only thing for us to do here is to lay out some substantive issues about what we think the courts should be about so we can say, ‘We told you so’ when Sotomayor produces liberal opinions,’ said the aide who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. ‘And we can set the table for the next nominee.'”