Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Jalopnik nails it on embargoes: Not agreeing to them means a huge advantage

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jalopnikLast week, Matt Hardigree, the editor-in-chief of Gawker Media-owned car site Jalopnik, riffed on embargoes following the leak of photos of the 2015 Ford Mustang.

The background discussion will be familiar to Embargo Watch readers:

The benefit, journalists say, is that they can take the time to craft a more in-depth feature on a vehicle. That may be true, but the same can be done at any point and having an in-depth piece “first” is the exact same instinct that drives people who post the images of a car before they have any info. It’s the same game, and it’s all done at the behest and schedule of automakers.

So, in the face of all this nonsense, we stopped agreeing to embargoes earlier this year.

Hardigree wants everyone to know that he doesn’t like trading editorial independence for access — but that he’s not doing this for ethical reasons. Here’s why:

No, I’m not doing this at the behest of the ghost of Edward R. Murrow or so that Aaron Sorkin will write a show about me called The Blogroom. The biggest reason Jalopnik does this is because it gives us a great competitive advantage. We can run the cover of Autoweek and Autoweek can’t. When the Corvette broke on the covers of Automobile and Road & Track earlier this year, we had them up for days while those two magazines had to wait until they had permission from GM to talk about what they knew.

Has this policy cost us this year? Barely. GM went out of their way to prevent us from getting the Corvette to drive until every other journalist did, but we got it eventually and we probably got more eyeballs out of the 2014 Corvette than any other outlet. Also, we already gave GM plenty of reasons to be mad at us.

And in case any PR firms don’t get the message, Hardigree ends with this:

If you send us embargoed information the first thing we’re going to do is publish it. So, there, done. You’ve all been officially warned.

Three cheers for Jalopnik! (TechCrunch did the same thing in 2008.)

For this sort of strategy to work effectively in science and medical journalism will mean killing the Ingelfinger Rule. So let’s get started on that.

Hat tip: Andrew Oransky

Written by Ivan Oransky

December 9, 2013 at 9:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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