Some embargoes are hard to respect

Embargoes are a tricky topic for me, as for many journalists. They exist, ostensibly, to enable us to research a story before it becomes ‘officially’ announced and so provide a better service to our readers. In reality, they are a often abused by those issuing them and are increasingly used as a way of manipulating the media.

Embargoes are now routinely added to many trivial press releases, apparently to make them seem more important than they really are. That’s fine (note to PRs: making life more difficult for hard-pressed journalists is unlikely to make us look more favourably on your clients).

The hardest embargoes to respect are those that are broken by the people issuing them. One such came across my desk today. I can’t tell you what the story is about, because it’s under embargo until Friday 4 March 2011 – three days from now. But I can tell you that the Institute of Physics has helpfully added a note to its press release saying “Do check out the YouTube video and feel free to embed on your site

That’s very kind of them. Here it is:
Optical tweezer software now available for the iPad

Now, I can’t tell you anything about this without breaking the embargo. But the video on YouTube, published openly by the IoP in breach of its own embargo, has been watched over 300 times already. It might be safe to say that the news is already out. Just don’t tell anyone I told you, OK?