Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

Who’d have thunk it? Embargo broken on announcement of first U.S. case of Ebola

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cdc_logoPeople have been asking me whether I can explain why the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has had so many embargo breaks this year (8, for those of you keeping score at home). Although I suspect that it has to do with the fact that PNAS has been publishing a lot of studies on hot-button issues such as climate change, and that the stories land on the desks of editors who aren’t familiar with embargoes, I really don’t know.

But here’s an embargo break that I don’t need any help explaining.

Here’s what was at the top of the media alert the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out at about 4:30 Eastern today:

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Embargoed until 5:30 pm ET (4:30 p.m. CT)

Now, the bolded bit was also in red. Or maybe it was in some other color. I’m colorblind; all I know is it wasn’t black. But below that:

CDC Confirms First Ebola Case Diagnosed in the United States

WHAT:          CDC will host a media briefing on confirming first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States.

The alert went on to name the people who’d be on the briefing. In addition to CDC director Thomas Frieden, the list included three health officials in Texas, one of whom is at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

So is it any surprise that at 4:52, 38 minutes before the alleged embargo, NBCNews.com reported that the CDC had confirmed that the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas? Which means, by the way, unless NBC’s standards have changed dramatically recently, which I doubt, that someone at the CDC went on the record about this before the “embargo” lifted.

Dear CDC: When  you put “For Immediate Release” and “Embargoed” on the same press release about @#$% Ebola, you get the blame for the broken embargo.

Or perhaps Dallas is the Bermuda Triangle of embargoes. The latest PNAS embargo break was by the Dallas Morning News.



Written by Ivan Oransky

September 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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