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#MediaMonday – Karen Barr
November 24, 2014

Young Woman On The Telephone And ComputerOne of the key points we stress during our media training sessions is that there is no such thing as “off the record.”

If you don’t want to see it in print – then don’t say it.

So I thought it was interesting to read in Michael Wolff’s USA Today Media column recently that he believes “off the record” still exists.

He had been invited to a background meeting in which Uber, the upstart personal cab company, was hosting a dinner for journalists and other opinion leaders.

Wolff stated, “I had understood that the Uber dinner, like other such media meet-and-greets – I’ve been to hundreds over the years – was off the record.”

I’m not sure why you’d invite a bunch of journalists to dinner to talk about your company and its role in commerce and then have it all be off the record in the first place.

Anyway, Wolff’s guest for the dinner, Ben Smith, editor –in-chief of BuzzFeed, did not have the same understanding.

Wolff reported that Smith and Uber’s senior vice president for business, Emil Michael, engaged in a one-on-one conversation about Uber’s frequent bad press.  During the conversation, Michael apparently said that Uber could investigate journalists if it wanted to – particularly a reporter who had skewered Uber in the past.

Guess what Smith wrote about?  Yep – that Uber could expose journalists’ personal lives to give them a taste of their own medicine.

Backlash against the media is clearly a bad track.  And telling a member of the media that is even worse.  Especially if it is “off the record.”

This seems to have been an avoidable fight – if the trained spokesperson would have known, or remembered, that there’s no such thing as off the record.

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

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