It used to be, at least in theory, that politicians and business executives could safely assume that if the cameras weren’t rolling, or if a reporter had set down his pencil, they could speak freely and there was little risk the comments would show up on the 6 p.m. news or in the next day’s paper.
Given the number of modern, high-profile “sound-check gaffes,” most notably with President Ronald Reagan, it’s unclear whether the notion of “off the record” was ever really followed that closely.
It certainly is not the case these days.
We live in a 24-hour news cycle that is just waiting for the next story, and everything we say has the potential of being recorded and beamed to millions. Last week, President Obama fell victim to the “always on-the-record” world in what is being called open-mic night for the president at a Chicago restaurant. A live audio feed carried Obama’s comments to the White House press briefing room. He was caught challenging Republicans to repeal health-care reform, saying: