There was an interesting conversation on a listserv I belong to today about on the record versus off. The main point is can you ever trust a reporter? Thought you'd be interested in my response.
I think that the media has changed dramatically in the past decade, and I advise clients that there are "New Rules" for a new media market. Although there are many journalists that I do trust and respect, ethics are often in short supply.
I saw a presentation by a Google executive recently who in the middle of a talk said that he hadn't cleared his remarks, and that they were off the record. What he said showed up on blogs within minutes.
Misinformation and media manipulation are rampant and keep increasing with the proliferation of blogs, social networking, pundits, etc. Fact checking in a time when deadlines are immediate is not rigorous, words are taken out of context, information becomes viral quickly, and it's very hard even if you trust the reporter to be sure that they will get it right. Journalists have to defend their stories, and if they tell an editor or producer something that was off-the-record and get backed into a corner, there is no guarantee it won't get used.
So I think we need "New Rules" and would be interested in what others have to say. Here are a couple of mine.
Assume everything you say is on the record, no matter who you are talking too.
If you do go off the record or talk for background only, do so with a trade industry reporter who has a reputation in your industry he or she does not want to harm.
Never switch gears in the middle of an interview. Set the ground rules for the entire conversation ahead of time, and get them in writing if you can.