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October 11, 1985

The Press Embargo: Friend or Foe?

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1985;254(14):1965-1966. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360140123040

In the history of journalism, press embargoes are remembered more in the breach than in compliance. A press embargo represents information offered reporters prior to the date and time of official release as "news." It is a system that gives each reporter an equal break on the news, along with time to develop the story through appropriate interviews and other research.

The system may have been in place from time immemorial. Certainly, that is the impression of Curtis MacDougall, emeritus professor of journalism, Northwestern University. In conversation, he suggested that the system might go back to George Washington and the Revolutionary War. "They've been around ever since I started out in journalism 50 years ago," he said.

Professor Charles-Gene McDaniel of Roosevelt University says that the system might have begun with the George Creel Committee on Public Information, created by President Wilson one week after the United States entered World