In journalism, a source will sometimes provide clear and accurate information just ahead of a public announcement that could potentially save a reporter time, while preventing inaccurate and potentially damaging information from reaching the public, due to the hurried efforts made by journalists to outscoop their competition.
This is done under the condition that the information provided to the reporter and his or her media outlet may not be publicized until an agreed-upon time. The process is called an embargo, and is an accepted and perfectly reasonable agreement between parties.
Now, what if you were the journalist and your source was the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whose embargo came with the knowledge that you not only have to be tightlipped with the public, but that you could not disclose any embargoed information with third parties?
You would in effect be silenced from speaking aloud any information given to you by the FDA until the embargo date and time expired.
It’s easy for this hypothetical to be viewed as simply that, a hypothetical, but according to Scientific American, the longest continuously published science and tech magazine in the country, their findings say it’s true.
Bloomberg View columnist, Megan McArdle writes that the FDA “is often releasing announcements about peoples’ research. And that information can dramatically move markets.”
Markets that include, but are not limited to the vapor product industry.
“This raises the specter that the purpose of such embargos has moved beyond controlling the flow of market-sensitive information, and onto ensuring that stories are produced by a select group of reporters given limited information, which will then shape the subsequent coverage of the issue,” McArdle wrote.
And by shaping the coverage of an issue, the potential to sway public opinion and change government policy in a way that would favor your organization’s self-interests is a tempting proposition indeed.
You can read more about the FDA embargos, and the Scientific American findings in McArdle’s article, which can be accessed here.