RIP, news embargoes
Add news embargoes to the growing jumble of detritus in the hellbox of journalism history.
In an age of insta-news, embargoes are so meaningless and unenforceable that they aren’t worth the pixels they are printed on. As a consequence, publicity seekers are on notice that they no longer will be observed here.
I am sorry to see embargoes go, because they were useful while they lasted. But that was then and this is now.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, newsmakers historically distributed press releases, speeches and other documents to the media prior to their official release so journalists had time to read them and prepare stories in advance. The idea was that the story would not be published or aired until the time specified in the embargo.
This was useful to journalists and their readers/viewers/listeners because it presumably gave reporters a chance to do a better job of assimilating and presenting the material. It also often helped newsmakers gain wider dissemination for their stories.
While a number of otherwise sophisticated people would like to think the embargo system remains operative to this day, recent experience proves that it is not.
Carefully orchestrated embargoes were blown out of the water on recent releases concerning the new non-profit journalism project in San Francisco and the Columbia University report on the meltdown of mainstream journalism.
If journalists can’t honor embargoes on releases about journalism issued by other journalists, then all bets are off.
Embargoes probably will survive in some rare cases where the newsmaker has the ability to deny access to the media on future occasions. A television network probably would avoid abusing advance access to the the State of the Union address for fear of being frozen out in the future by the White House.
In general, however, it will be open season on press releases 24/7 from here on out. Anyone wanting to control the timing of future missives should do what companies do with their earnings reports: Put stories on the wire/web at the moment they want them publicized and not a minute sooner.
Speeding up the treadmill probably won’t enhance the quality of news coverage. But it will make the journalistic food fight as fair as it can be.