Is anything ever really ‘off the record’?

An Uber executive’s remarks became big news though they weren’t intended for publication. It’s always important to set ground rules with reporters.

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Apparently Michael thought he was speaking off the record, so the whole thing might have been another crazy cocktail-party story except for the fact that there were journalists present. One of those journalists was Buzzfeed‘s Ben Smith, who promptly posted a story about the bizarre statements, because no one told him anything was off the record, and therefore it wasn’t.

Many observers called out Michael’s remarks as nutty. Probably the least remarkable part of it was his failure to confirm ground rules given the presence of media professionals. I don’t know if the fallout will actually hurt Uber’s business, but it’s bound to stall the positive PR engine. The lack of judgment and cultural arrogance that it takes to float a “black ops” campaign to a group of influencers is pretty staggering.

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