Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Archive for February 2010

UPI breaks Archives of General Psychiatry embargo on pot-psychosis study

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Not many details yet, but UPI just broke an embargo on an Archives of General Psychiatry study on whether kids who used pot more often were more likely to develop psychosis as young adults. At 7:48 p.m. Eastern tonight, they published a story about the study, which was embargoed until Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern.

The URL where the story used to be now reads:

BRISBANE, Australia, Feb. 26 (UPI) –(Editor’s note: Please disregard and do not use the item headlined “Pot use linked to psychosis risk.” It was filed in error and in violation of an embargo. We apologize for any inconvenience. Thank you. –UPI)

The journal has lifted the embargo, and Bloomberg has already pushed their story live.

I’ll update when I find out if there will be any sanctions against UPI.

UPDATE, 5:05 p.m. Eastern, March 1, 2010: Jann Ingmire, director of media relations for JAMA and the Archives journals, tells me there will be no sanctions against UPI because the agency was apparently unaware that the material was embargoed. Here’s what Jann said happened: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm

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Reuters breaks American Heart Association embargo, loses press access

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This morning, the American Heart Association (AHA) sent out a release saying that Reuters had broken an embargo. The story in question was about new results from CREST (the Carotid Revascularization Endarterectomy Versus Stenting Trial), finding that stents and surgery both prevent strokes.

The study was embargoed until 8:30 Eastern Central, but was posted to Reuters.com at 7:47 Eastern (6:47 Central).

Later, I got a message from Carrie Thacker, the AHA’s director of corporate and media communications:

As a result of this embargo break, all Reuters reporters will be eliminated from our media distribution list, they will no longer have access to our embargoed newsroom where they can have access to our embargoed journal articles and we will not provide any interviews to any Reuters reporters for a period of 6 months. These sanctions will apply to the reporter who broke the embargo for a period of one year. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

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Break a JAMA embargo, get blacklisted. Then what?

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Adam Feuerstein and Patricia Anstett are part of an elite journalism club.

They’ve both been blacklisted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), accused of breaking embargoes.

That means the journal will no longer send either of them embargoed material. How did they earn such a punishment, and what effect has it had on their reporting? I caught up with both of them yesterday to find out.

Pat, who has covered medicine for decades for the Detroit Free Press, lost her JAMA press privileges — she prefers not to use the word “blacklist” — in 2002 when she reported that the Women’s Health Initiative had found risks to using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), before the study embargo lifted.

Here’s Pat’s version of events: “We didn’t break the embargo,” she told me by email. “A good source told me there was a huge sea-change announcement coming on HRT so I spent time, starting about six weeks prior to the announcement, talking to doctors who indeed were changing their HRT practices. JAMA’s editor and NIH chiefs sat on this very important news for several months, allowing them ample time to schedule a press conference at their convenience. They gave the news exclusively to a TV network several hours BEFORE the press briefing and their own embargo time for the rest of the media.”

JAMA didn’t see things Pat’s way, told her she had broken the embargo, and revoked her press privileges.

What Pat found most outrageous: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 26, 2010 at 8:24 am

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“Yes, I’ll honor the f—ing embargo”

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I have lifted the headline of this original post at BoingBoing, since I really didn’t think I could improve on it. If you have ever been hounded by a PR staffer about a revolutionary breakthrough that will only be revealed to you if you agree to an embargo, this one’s for you. Some colorful language, but perfectly safe for work if you’re wearing headphones or ear buds.

Hat tip to @edyong209

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm

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“Minor French medical website” breaks Human Reproduction embargo

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It’s bad enough to be called out publicly for breaking an embargo. But if a press officer manages to call you “a minor French medical website” in an announcement to other media, that’s got to sting.

Message this morning from Emma Mason, who handles press for Human Reproduction:

Due to an embargo break by Le Quotidien du Medecin (a minor French medical website) this morning, the agency APM has put out the story about the Danish woman who gave birth to two children in two separate pregnancies. Therefore, I have lifted the embargo on this story and you’re free to publish it whenever you want. I’ve pasted the original press release below to help you identify the story. I am taking appropriate action against Le Quotidien.

I asked Emma about the “appropriate action,” and here’s how she replied: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 24, 2010 at 11:14 am

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Good intentions, unintended consequences at American Thoracic Society

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The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

One of my staff writers was sitting down a few weeks ago to report out a study from The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (AJRCCM) when she noticed some small print at the top of the cover page: “Media embargo until 2 weeks after above posting date.” The page also directed reporters to the embargo policy.

The paper was an advance online publication, and the policy was just a few weeks old, it turns out, so it wasn’t unexpected that I hadn’t noticed it before. What was unusual, however, was that I wasn’t accessing the paper in question through a press site. I was accessing it through HighWire, a Stanford University service that many publishers use to make electronic versions of their journals available.

In other words, according to this embargo, the press can’t write about papers for two weeks while they’re freely available to any HighWire subscriber — and that’s a lot of doctors at a lot of medical schools and hospitals.

This was a new one for me. Embargoed papers not being available to anyone but the press, sure. But available to many doctors — and anyone doctors showed them to — for two weeks before we could write about them? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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Why write a blog on embargoes?

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post for the Association of Health Care Journalists’ Covering Health blog. In a nutshell, I told the story of an episode involving competing embargoes from the Cochrane Library and the Annals of Internal Medicine and wondered aloud about whom medical journal embargoes are really serving.

If you’re unfamiliar with embargoes: You’ve probably noticed that every major news organization — including mine, Reuters  — seems to publish stories on particular studies all at once. Embargoes are why.

A lot of journals, using services such as Eurekalert.org, release material to journalists before it’s officially published. Reporters agree not to publish anything based on those studies until that date, and in return they get more time to read the studies and obtain comments.

That would seem to be a good thing for science and health journalism, much of which is reliant on journals for news because it’s peer-reviewed — in other words, it’s not just a researcher shouting from a mountaintop — and punctuates the scientific process with “news events.”

Vincent Kiernan doesn’t agree. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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