Embargoed science turning journalists into agents of propaganda

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Those are not my words, but those of Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet – which operates a very strict embargo policy – speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists last week.

Mark Peplow posted this summary:

“I’m Richard,” he shouted, “I’m 47 and I’ve been addicted to embargoes for 14 years.”

In a remarkable diatribe, delivered at top volume and with tongue only slightly in cheek, Horton explained that embargoes were all “about power and control – my power to control you, turning journalists into agents of propaganda.”

Eyes ablaze, he continued, almost mocking the open-mouthed hacks in the audience: “Look at this story, don’t you want it? Your rival wants it!” he cried. “But you’ve sold your soul to publicity masquerading as science.”

Ultimately, getting rid of the embargo system would improve the quality of science journalism, he concluded, because it would force editors to employ reporters who actually knew what they were talking about, rather than simply being able to read and regurgitate a weekly press release at leisure.

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