Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

NEJM improves from its 49-minute short embargo record

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Short embargo race winner the New England Journal of Medicine49 minutes is the current record — was at it again yesterday, sending out a paper on the origins of the cholera strain now devastating Haiti at 12:58 p.m. Eastern that was embargoed for 5 p.m.

Why the rush? NEJM media relations Karen Buckley told me:

We had an expedited production schedule to get the article out in a timely manner.  It was done early afternoon on Thursday, and we published at 5 the same day.  If we wanted to give the media more time, we would have had a mid-day Friday embargo.  It seemed like the right thing to do.

Not an unreasonable rationale. I probably would have just released the thing — after all, if it’s important for the public health of those in Haiti or elsewhere, get it out there and send it to the press for immediate release.

To be Pollyannish: I suppose I could argue that four hours and two minutes is better than 49 minutes, although it’s still less time than I’d expect reporters to have “time to report accurately on complex and important new research findings,” to quote NEJM’s own embargo policy. And I haven’t seen any other particularly short embargoes from them recently.

For more on the study itself, my colleague Maggie Fox was able to get a story posted about an hour after embargo.

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Written by Ivan Oransky

December 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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