Media Moves

Should journalists accept tech company embargoes?

February 3, 2021

Posted by Chris Roush

Mike Ananny writes for Nieman Lab about the pros and cons of accepting an embargo from a tech company.

Ananny writes, “Such embargoes can curb the power that ill-informed, reactionary ‘hot takes’ have to skew debates, misstate details, and reward the loudest voices. Companies have good reasons to share information in advance with a small set of trusted reporters who can write stories that strengthen public debate.

“But this ideal is open to several legitimate criticisms. Embargoes are a PR technique companies can use to drive coverage and foreground storylines in a story’s critical first few hours, and not every reporter has the time or professional sophistication to see such embargoes as attempts at manipulation. Depending on the terms of the embargo, the reporter may be barred from discussing the information with sources who could shed light on the company’s strategy and push back against the spin. Journalists can be left at the mercy of the embargo’s demand for secrecy, they might be forced to rely on their past reporting for insight, or they might have to cultivate for themselves a set of sources who they trust to help them interpret the embargoed information, and stay quiet about it.

“Companies also generally do not offer embargoed information to every reporter on a beat. For understandable reasons, they often prefer to make such deals with a small set of elite journalists who they know and trust, whose coverage will be influential, or who they are trying to cultivate for long-term relationships.”

Read more here.

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