Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Did Nick Kristof break an embargo on chemicals and cancer report?

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The embargo has just lifted — at 12:01 a.m. Eastern, May 6 — on the President’s Cancer Panel’s new report, “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now.” You will probably be reading a lot about this report’s hard line on regulating chemicals in the coming days. You can start by reading Reuters’ version here.

But if you were one of Nick Kristof’s many loyal readers who checks for his new columns the night before they appear in print, you would have known about this report hours ago. Or at least two hours ago, when someone forwarded me a link to this column.  I’m not sure exactly what time it went up, but it was before 10 p.m. Eastern. Nick tweeted about it at 11:10 Eastern.

At least three possibilities, in order of what I find least to most likely:

  • Nick or his editor didn’t know the report was embargoed. Doubtful, given I’ve seen “embargoed” all over every message about it.
  • Nick knew it was embargoed, and someone along the line forgot that Times stories go live the night before. Seems pretty unlikely.
  • The Cancer Panel, or its PR reps, decided to let Nick run the story early, figuring he would be sympathetic given other columns he’s written. Maybe they sent it to everyone but Nick under embargo. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time in the history of government embargoes that’s happened.

I emailed Hager Sharp, the PR agency handling the report and its embargo. I’ll update when I hear more.

Update, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 5/6/10: I received this email just now from Times spokesperson Diane McNulty, in response to a request for comment:

Nick spoke at great length over recent weeks with both the Cancer Panel and the PR agency.  They knew he was writing for his Thursday column which is posted Wednesday night.

To me, all signs are pointing to my third scenario: letting Nick run with this early, before the embargo to which everyone else was subjected. Still waiting for a response from Hager Sharp.

Update, 5:45 p.m. Eastern, 5/6/10: Still no word from Hager Sharp, but they did post this press release on their site, touting their success getting press coverage for the report.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

May 6, 2010 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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