“Off the record” is a term used in journalism meaning that the information given to the reporter cannot be attributed to the person saying it.
Off the record quotes are often used to protect sources who are giving information that could get them in trouble.
However, the term off the record has picked up many misconceptions. To be off the record, the journalist must agree to it. A person cannot declare himself off the record after statements are made and hope his statements will not be reported. If the source does not want the quote to be reported, with attribution or without, they must agree to it with the reporter beforehand.
Off the record quotes are used often in politics, typically to protect anonymous sources speaking out, and protecting them from being fired or silenced by politicians.
The Guardian explains:
Let’s face it, down the years we have been here many, many times. People say things to journalists, possibly in a light-hearted fashion, that end up in print. Inevitably, “official” denial follows. They may also fail to grasp what we mean by “off the record.”
For journalists, it simply means that it is reportable as long as the source is not identified.