Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Astronomy press officer: “embargoes are becoming less and less practical”

with one comment


Hubble in orbit, courtesy European Space Agency

Embargo Watch readers are probably familiar with a lot of arguments against embargoes at this point, mostly about how they can restrict the flow of scientific information and give journals and other institutions too much control. But what about how practical they are for press officers who create them?

Last Wednesday, a longtime space writer email emailed Rick Fienberg, the press of officer and director of communications for the American Astronomical Society (AAS), confused about an embargo.

The AAS had passed along an embargoed European Space Agency (ESA) release about Hubble news for 9 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, August 15. But EurekAlert had the same news embargoed for 7 p.m. Eastern on the 14th. 

It turned out one of several institutions involved in the release had mixed up the time, which the ESA had EurekAlert fix. But that fix didn’t happen until after a site that publishes press releases had already posted an item on it. So the ESA had that site take down the post, and asked the space writer to honor the original embargo.

That embargo ended up holding. The whole episode made Fienberg wonder, however, whether embargoes were worth it:

With so many institutions involved in so many discoveries, and with so many distribution channels for press releases, and with so much content going online before being carefully edited, it seems to me that embargoes are becoming less and less practical.

Written by Ivan Oransky

August 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. There is the argument that embargoes allow journos more team to understand the science and find experts, etc. But my main concern (working in Australia) is that journos in the Asia-Pacific region will more often than not be several hours behind the rest of the world in getting the release. Most of the BIG astronomy and space stories come from European and US-based institutions who would send their press releases in the morning for their respective time zones. By the time I sit down at my desk in the morning, I will be reading Irene Klotz’s or Alan Boyle’s (both great writers) stories before Outlook has opened. For a MSM news website this could be a problem.

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