Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

AFP breaks European Heart Journal embargo on chocolate and blood pressure study

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The AFP broke an embargo yesterday on a study in the European Heart Journal suggesting that people who eat dark chocolate may have a lower risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. The study, whose press release took advantage of the seasonal timing and started with “Easter eggs and other chocolate may be good for you,” was embargoed until 5 minutes past midnight London time today, Wednesday, March 31, but the wire service’s version of the story went out yesterday morning, when at least one site ran it. (That site was in Belgium, known of course for its chocolate.)

In response, Emma Mason, who handles media for a number of Oxford University Press journals including the European Heart Journal, lifted the embargo in an email sent out at 5:43 a.m. London time yesterday, while the circumstances of the break were still unclear. This morning, she sent an email to her press list:

Agence France Presse (AFP) unintentionally broke the embargo and they have been good enough to admit this. An internal error resulted in a French version of the story going out with an incorrect date on it (the English service had no such problem).

As this was a genuine accident and I have never had a problem with AFP intentionally breaking any of my embargoes, I have accepted this explanation but told them that, if it should happen again, then both I and the European Society of Cardiology will suspend them from our media databases for a period of six months. I have also said that I will let Eurekalert and Alphagalileo know of their explanation and the action that I have taken, as both websites have asked to be kept informed.

As the embargo had been broken, I arranged for OUP to bring publication of the paper forward a day so that people reading your stories could then find the original research paper on the journal website.

I am sorry that you all had to rush to cover this story a day earlier than we were all expecting, but I’d like to say that you’ve all done a fantastic job and I’m delighted with the coverage so far – so many thanks!

Here’s Reuters’ version of the story.

Hat tip to Helen Branswell

Post updated at 8 a.m. Eastern, 3/31/10, with details of break and Emma’s note.

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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