Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Global Edmonton loses access to Government of Alberta embargoed material after tweets

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On February 9, Lynda Steele, an anchor at Global Edmonton, sent out the following tweets:

BREAKING BUDGET NEWS – Another record deficit, more money for health care and hope for recession recovery. #yeg #ableg [2/9/2010  3:16:44 PM]

The budget deficit for the coming year is projected to be 4.7 billion, almost double what was projected in last year’s budget forecast. [2/9/2010  3:17:08 PM]

Most of the new spending is going to health. 1.7 billion dollars more this year, [2/9/2010  3:17:20 PM]

Edmonton will receive about 100 million dollars less fr province – for Calgary the shortfall could be 150 million. #ableg [2/9/2010  3:17:53 PM]

The Alberta budget announcement was embargoed until 3:20 p.m., however, as noted by Mack D. Male’s MasterMaq blog, where I found this story and Lynda’s tweets. Lynda had broken an embargo on Budget Day.

As detailed by Mack and Dave Cournoyer, Lynda shut down her Twitter account at the end of March. On March 30, Government of Albert public affairs bureau managing director Lee Funke wrote a letter to Global Edmonton news director Michael Fulmes (excerpt):

A breach of an embargo of any kind is a breach of trust. That is has to do with subject matter that can have market implications makes it all the more serious a matter. The Government of Alberta’s budget embargo rules for media are extremely permissive relative to those of the federal government and some other provinces. In exchange for this flexibility, government asks only that media agree to respect the rules of the embargo.

Global Edmonton breached that agreement. In light of the fact that this is the second budget embargo breach in three years by an Alberta media outlet, we must now consider more severe restrictions on the entire media corps for future budgets and simmer events, including a strict lockup where electronic devices are removed.

The letter goes on to say:

…it is imperative that Global Edmonton specifically be sanctioned for its breach of this embargo to ensure fairness to those media that did respect the agreement. Effective immediately, all Global Edmonton personnel will be denied access to any embargoed information or media relations event by the Alberta government until the end of the 2010 calendar year.

Yes, the punishment for a three-minute embargo break lasts the rest of a calendar year.

In early March, I wrote about a time I broke an embargo unintentionally on Twitter. And earlier this month, Bora Zivkovic, Cassie Rodenberg and I discussed — on Twitter, appropriately — whether a tweet could count as an embargo break. Although the three of us seemed to agree that they could, journals have so far apparently only considered tweets breaks if they lead to “official” media coverage. The government of Alberta apparently agrees with me, Bora, and Cassie.

Shameless plug alert: This may be a good topic of discussion for me and Canwest National Affairs Correspondent David Akin when we appear on a panel on embargoes together at the Canadian Science Writers’ Association conference in Ottawa in June.

Written by Ivan Oransky

April 19, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Sounds like a valid punishment. Rules need to be respected.


    November 10, 2010 at 9:34 am

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