What’s a News Embargo?

August 31, 2018

Recently, Ron Nixon, The New York Times’ homeland security correspondent, got an exclusive story revealing that the Department of Health and Human Services had lost track of almost 1,500 migrant children. The catch? He couldn’t report it right away because he had agreed to a news embargo. Here’s a New York Times article about news embargoes.

So what is a news embargo? Like a trade embargo, a news embargo is just what it sounds like: an agreement between two parties (a source and a reporter) that the goods (the source’s story) won’t be released (published) before a certain date and time.

News embargoes have many purposes. For reporters, embargoes allow them to receive advance notice of news so that they have time to understand it, write their article and release it as soon as the information is announced to the public by the source. For the source, it allows them to answer questions reporters may have so that they can correct any factual errors.

News embargos are also valuable because abiding by them builds trust between the source and the journalist. If a journalist fails to respect a news embargo, the source may refuse to work with the journalist again.

At University Public Relations, we frequently work with embargoes. Sometimes it’s with an academic journal that is publishing a faculty member’s research, other times it’s with journalists at state and national outlets. If you have questions about news embargoes, feel free to contact us at unews@umn.edu or by calling 612-624-5551.