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The Fight Over Off The Record (and Ron Fournier’s Blooming Twitter Addiction)

The Department of Justice must really feel like they screwed up, because Eric Holder is making the apology tour and meeting with various media outlets. It’s an effort to build bridges over the Obama administration hunting of leaks in the media, which many feel is overly aggressive. Naturally, there’s one little hangup: The DOJ wants the meeting off the record. While an off the record meeting with a high-ranking government official is hardly groundbreaking in Washington, the optics are pretty shitty. Here’s the Attorney General, who led a media witch hunt, who now wants to have an open dialogue with the media, who feels slighted and no one can know what was said.

National Journal’s Ron Fournier  penned a thoughtful piece on what “off the record” really means, and gives reasons why the media should ignore Holder’s request for silence. Fournier sums up the problem with this off the record nonsense by saying that ”it puts a reporter in the position of a priest: Keeping the government’s secrets.” Fournier reminds reporters that this story isn’t about them or their rights, but it’s about the next President, who might be worse than Presidents Bush and Obama combined.

Fournier was really proud of the piece. Oh, how do we know?

He took to Twitter and tweeted a link to the piece ELEVEN times. Hey, we’re all for self-promotion (YOLO), but that might be a little out of control. It seems awfully reminiscent of the time he promoted the magazine cover story he wrote about his son’s mental illness. The story itself was a tearjerker. Thoughtful. Insightful. The whole nine yards. And then he took to Twitter to emote. He tweeted about that story just a few too many times too (#lovethatboy) and even wrote a reaction piece to all the reactions about his own story. Just trying to think about that actually made my head start to tingle (like it might cave in on itself) and sent a straight shot of pain up my right leg.

The current OTR tweeting spree seems like an effort on Fournier’s part to not only make himself a moral authority, but also to engage journalists to debate with him about the piece. For example, Fournier and Politico’s Dylan Byers bickered like online lovers over the course of a couple of days over various media outlets and their decisions to meet or ignore Holder. When Byers tweeted, “Can someone please explain why various media organizations are boycotting *this* off-rec meeting but felt perfectly comfy attending others?,” Fournier felt the need to jump in to act as gatekeeper of the OTR conversation. He tweeted to Byers, “On assignment. Can a WH reporter address the premise of the question for Dylan. ‘Comfy’ — really? Assumption on frequency.” While Politico did take the OTR meeting with Holder, at least Byers acted conflicted about it. He tweeted, “I was and remain conflicted.”

The debate raged into Friday morning in a pre-dawn exchange when Byers tweeted to Fournier, “I still don’t get your point on this; I’ve reported on many off-record sessions btwn admin and journos,” and tells him that he might be “underestimating how many off-the-ref convos happen in Washington.” Byers asked pointedly, “@ron_fournier How many off-the-record meetings did you attend as Washington bureau chief of the Associated Press?”

Fournier continued to try to educate all of his followers by tweeting:

Every morning, Fournier wakes up with the chickens to start tweeting words of wisdom, links to articles and country music lyrics. (Seriously.) Is he addicted to Twitter? The guy is at it nonstop. Does he even communicate with humanoids anymore? Or are all of his thoughts now somehow sent out of his veins electronically?

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