Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Embargoed 'Exclusives': Too High a Price?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Embargoed 'Exclusives': Too High a Price?

Article excerpt

United, US Air deal highlights practice

News that United Airlines was buying US Airways appeared on many front pages. Something more also slipped into view -- an instance of what critics call an increasingly common, but unsavory, arrangement.

The day before the proposed merger was to be announced, a publicist offered details of the takeover on the condition that reporters not post the news on the Internet until midnight or speak to outsiders.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal all accepted the deal. But the embargo dissolved when the Financial Times of London, not party to the deal, put news of the takeover on its Web site around 6:30 p.m. May 23.

That freed the others to report for the next day's editions, and The New York Times revealed the embargo in the 26th and 27th paragraphs of its main story about the takeover.

Embargoes with reporting restrictions offer clear upsides to both parties: Journalists know they won't miss the story, and corporations can get first-day articles that lack comments from critics.

The downside falls to the third party in the transaction -- the reading public. After word emerged of the airlines' news embargo, critics assembled lists of those whose views may have been relevant, including passenger and consumer groups, unions, and federal regulators who still must approve the takeover. …

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