Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

‘We asked them to honor our embargo, but they chose not to, which, given the circumstances, was certainly their right.’

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Sometimes what looks like an embargo break is not an embargo break at all.

Embargo Watch readers may recall the story of Pat Anstett, who in 2002 was blacklisted by the Journal of the American Medical Association for publishing a story — based on independent reporting, rather than embargoed materials — on a major study that was about to come out in the journal.

So when I saw reference to the AMA releasing a report — on efforts to fight racism — a day earlier than it had planned because a news outlet had run a story on it, I was curious about the circumstances.

The report was embargoed for release on May 12, when the AMA had scheduled a press conference. But a day before, the press team cancelled the event and said an unnamed news outlet “has decided not to honor the embargo.”

That unnamed news outlet, it turns out, was STAT, which had obtained a copy of the report and published a story on May 11.

I asked the AMA what had happened. Josh Zembik, the AMA’s director – media and editorial — told Embargo Watch:

A reporter managed to get a copy of our plan from a third-party source and therefore, outside the terms of our embargo. We asked them to honor our embargo, but they chose not to, which, given the circumstances, was certainly their right. Once it was clear their news would break before our embargo time, we lifted the embargo and issued our press release a day early.

I assume, given the circumstances, that there will be no sanctions against STAT — and nor should there be. Zembik did not respond to a request about that specific point.

But one hopes things are different 19 years after Anstett vs. JAMA.

Written by Ivan Oransky

May 19, 2021 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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