Nita Simmons, middle school reporter, knows Earl Melvin is innocent. But, Nita isn't sure she has what it takes to be a journalist. Besides, before she can think about writing Mr. Melvin's story, she's going to have to get the old man to open up. Mr. Melvin has little to say about his past but offers Nita plenty of advice for dealing with her nemesis and class bully, Alexis Evans. He even helps Nita brainstorm her newfound quest for kindness and equality. Off the record tells the story before the story, as Nita struggles to overcome her own fears and mistakes and learns the importance of forgiving others and trying again.