Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

CNN breaks embargo on stress and breast cancer study in Clinical Cancer Research

with 2 comments

The embargo should be lifting in two minutes, at 1 p.m. Eastern, on a study in Clinical Cancer Research which found that lowering stress among women with breast cancer was linked to better outcomes. But an item about the study went live on CNN’s Paging Dr. Gupta blog at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Jeff Grabmeier, director of research communications at Ohio State University, where the study’s lead researcher works, emailed me about the break a bit before noon. He said a local reporter had come across the CNN item. Jeff called the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the journal’s publisher, and a press officer there told him that they’d contact CNN to see if they could take down the item.

I emailed AACR too, and associate director of public affairs Michele Leiberman responded:

We were made aware of this embargo break and are looking into it. Because the CNN story covered the entirety of the research, we made the decision to open the embargo in this case.

You may recall that when a press release broke an embargo on an AACR journal study about two weeks ago, the association decided not to lift the embargo early. So here’s more data on what it takes to get an embargo lifted early, although I’m still hunting for a clear answer.

Update, 4:50 p.m. Eastern, 6/8/10: Michele emailed me with a follow-up. The embargo break was an accident:

Our press officer spoke with CNN, and the embargo break was human error. The person responsible for posting these items on the web saw 10:00 a.m. instead of 1:00 p.m., and up it went. CNN accidentally broke the embargo this one time, but they have a long history of honoring embargoes with us and of solid journalism.

We did not ask CNN to remove the post.

We became aware of this embargo break about one hour prior to the embargo actually lifting. We found out about it through the press office at Ohio State who had received a call from the Columbus Post Dispatch asking what was going on. We authorized the Columbus Post Dispatch to run their story, and anyone else who called could run it too. We didn’t send out an announcement saying the embargo was lifted because it had only an hour to go.

The difference between this embargo break and the previous one with SmartTan was that CNN did a full report with all of the information and got everything right. SmartTan did a press release designed to advocate their opinion, and not only made factual mistakes but also did not name the journal or reveal significant detail about the study. Engaging SmartTan would have only drawn more attention to their release.

Disclosure: My wife is a writer/producer at CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

June 8, 2010 at 12:57 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks, Ivan, for addressing this embargo break. While I’m glad the journal “opened” the embargo in this case, it certainly would have been nice for them to have informed us at the researcher’s university of that fact, since we’d posted an embargoed release.

    Earle Holland

    June 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    • Correction to the above: Apparently, AACR’s Tara did inform Jeff that they were removing the embargo during a phone conversation. Therefore, I withdraw my chiding of the journal for failing to inform us but I do still question the comment’s description as being “snarky” towards the journal. People who know me would expect more vitriol in the verbiage to qualify as snarky. Regardless, our apologies to those at AACR who felt slighted.

      Earle Holland

      June 8, 2010 at 4:35 pm


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