These arrangements between scientific organizations and the reporters who cover them usually allow for advance access to research papers from journals or meetings to allow reporters time to consult sources and do a better job covering complex scientific studies. As a bonus, nearly all the coverage appears simultaneously--no news outlet gets scooped, and it's a sure thing all around.
Except when it's not. Communicators can be rightly confused by how and when to set embargoes, given that so many exceptions and misinterpretations are made. That's why I'm glad to see a new blog, Embargo Watch, just launched by Reuters Health executive editor Ivan Oransky. Just five posts in (at this writing), the blog already offers communicators loads of lessons in each post, with real-life case studies you can use to educate yourself or build a case for your policies. Oransky's also going to poke at some emerging trends he sees, like a tendency toward 24-hour-or-less embargoes, to find out how they're viewed by the issuing organization and reporters alike, so you'll get the inside view from both sides. So far, he's looked at such issues as:
- embargoing information that's already widely available online;
- insulting the embargo-breaking news outlet in your announcement of an embargo lift;
- embargoing something that's absolutely not news;
- trying to enforce embargoes with reporters who haven't agreed to abide by them in the first place; and
- what happens to blacklisted reporters who've broken embargoes and whether it matters to them.
Related posts: Tweeting at meetings gets controversial (with one scientific group's new policy on meeting communications)
Embargoes: Scrambled or fried?
Medical writer clarifies disclosure rules for journal authors at meetings
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