Never. It's never OK to tell a lie.
But I do think I've found one situation where it would be awfully tempting.
Gawker has the inside scoop on how members of the White House Press Corps were all totally willing to give up on what they do -- reporting -- just to get a ticket to watch fireworks at the White House.
Here is what the email from the White House to about 30 of the White House press corps read:
"You are being invited to attend this event as a guest. Blogging, Twittering or otherwise reporting on this event is not permitted. If you feel that you cannot agree to abide by these ground rules, please don't claim a ticket."
Every single one of them agreed to this rule.
Now here's the thing: I have immense respect for President Obama, and for his desire to keep his family out of the media spotlight. If I was invited, I would certainly not report that Malia spilled mustard on her shirt, or whatever.
But I absolutely would report about the other reporters there, what the general talk was, etc. I would just spill it all as if I was anywhere else in my life. Everybody else is reporting on everything else, how is this somehow different?
Why not lie, take the ticket, then report away?
I'm reminded of two analogous situations.
First, of course, is Sharon Stone, saying, "What are you going to do? Arrest me for smoking?"
Second is Mike Arrington, who runs TechCrunch, announcing that he will agree to all embargoes (when PR companies give you the news early but insist you don't run with it until an agreed-on time) but then he will break that agreement and run the news whenever he damn well feels like it.
Now I realize that by taking the ticket and the reporting on the fireworks party I would be urinating in the punch bowl, and then the press office might decide not to invite any media to the private affairs. Well, that's OK with me, too. If the Obamas want private family time, they can do it without 30 reporters hanging around. If they want to make the reporters feel special, they are just going to have to find some other way to do it.
The world is changing, and those 30 people just aren't as special as they used to be. The White House Press Office needs to figure that out.