When is an embargo not an embargo?

How about when a press release was never issued? None was available when the UK media reported results of a study about the effects of caffeine in pregnancy – before BMJ had a chance to publish online. Just the same, BMJ editor Fiona Godlee is a bit peeved. She acknowledges that, technically, there was no breach, but she maintains coverage still amounted to publicity before publication.

How did this happen? The UK’s Food Standards Agency, which funded the study, held a stakeholders meeting before BMJ issued its embargoed press release. “It was probably from this meeting that the study’s findings, and the government’s new guidelines on caffeine intake during pregnancy, were leaked,” she writes in an editorial. In this case, she continues, there was no harm done – the media got the story right.

Godlee was responding, in part, to an earlier BMJ blog post by FSA communications director Terrence Collis, who wrote the agency was less than “delighted” to get its study published in BMJ. Why? The FSA wants to show its research is high quality, but “we are even keener that the advice that reaches consumers is as clear as possible – and gets there as quickly as possible. This makes waiting around for journals to decide whether they are going to publish a real pain.” And that, he acknowledged, left time for leaks.

Some other thoughts about embargoes:

What do you think about embargoes and, specifically, this situation?

1 thought on “When is an embargo not an embargo?

  1. Kevin P. Miller

    Ed Silverman’s work as a Reporter has been extraordinary day after day, week after week. The fact that WHO punished The New York Times after breaking an embargo on a story about measles only points to how far the journalistic community has fallen over the past few decades.

    Since WHEN has it been acceptable for journalists to be so closely aligned with WHO? Ditto the BMJ and NEJM!! Too many reporters have lazily become “part of the system” and look at their insider’s connection as a competitive edge.

    WRONG. What this mentality has fostered is nothing more than an “Inside the Beltway” mentality, where too many health reporters take the PRESS RELEASES doled out by NIH, NIMH, FDA, NEJM, WHO etc etc etc — and print them as Gospel truth!

    As Mr. Silverman has pointed out repeatedly, this kind of uncritical acceptance of “the state of healthcare” from those who have financial and vested interests is a big part of the problem.

    As I have shown in my recent film GENERATION RX, scores of people are dying — and scores of children are being prescribed drugs that have NEVER been proven to work better than placebo.

    It is only recently coming to light. . .but hey — why aren’t there more of you challenging the drug companies and the aforementioned agencies? Why aren’t more of you digging for the truth?

    Look in the mirror. Times are tough all over. But if you deliver the Truth after years of lies you will be able to distinguish yourselves from the rest of the pack.

    In my opinion that’s what Gardiner Harris of NYT has done, along with Ed Silverman.

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