File this under the category of tricks reporters use to loosen your lips.
I’m speaking specifically about the reporter who acts like a confidante–a trusted friend who is standing by ready to hear about your problems, and then commiserate. Here are phrases they might use:
"Don’t you think it’s terrible that…"
"I don’t think it’s fair when…" They then go on to describe something that gets under their skin. And they close with "Do you see what I mean?" or "Don’t you feel the same way?"
"Don’t you just hate it when…"
"Just between you and me…"
"Off the record…"
"I trust you enough that I know you’ll tell me what really happened."
Beware of the confidante. He might be trying to catch you off guard so that you talk about something you don’t want to discuss.
Sometimes reporters throw these phrases at you after they’ve just interviewed you in your office, and as you’re walking them to the door.
Even though the camera is off, and the reporter’s notebook is stashed inside his breast pocket, the interview is still under way. Except you mistakenly think the two of you are just making small talk. So you agree with what he says. The next thing you know, it’s on the 6 o’clock news.
Reporters usually don’t pull tricks like this, but the seasoned ones know how to. The best reporters know all the ways to pry information from unsuspecting sources.
The next time you interview with the media, remember that reporters aren’t your enemies. But they aren’t your friends, either. And they certainly should never be viewed as confidantes. They’re business people who have a job to do. So do you. So be on your guard.
Crisis counselor Jonathan Bernstein knows lots more tricks reporters use to loosen your lips. He discusses them, and tells you how to beat them at their own game, during a teleseminar we conducted called "How to Keep the Media Wolves at Bay."