He recounts his years as a journalist in the 1980s and early 1990s, saying he regularly honored embargoes.
"We knew that if we didn't comply, we would have a moment of glory as we broke the news, but forever after the rest of the media that did comply would continue to get the information early and we would not. We would have to play catch up for the rest of eternity."
It was a risk that journalists simply could not take. Of course those were different times. News was gathered in person or over the phone. There was no Internet. Newspapers still had just one deadline each day and TV stations still had four deadlines each day. The only around the clock news organization was CNN and until the first Gulf War, they were struggling to find a niche and barely surviving.
Keeney also points to PR counselor Kellye Crane who writes on her Solo PR Pro blog that the days of actually providing context are probably behind us. In her post, "Modern PR Pros and the Breaking News Dilemma," Kellye writes that anyone who releases information under embargo should anticipate that the embargo will be violated.
"I understand the arguments of those who suggest that embargoes are meant to be broken. Why in the world would you expect a journalist to keep a secret? It doesn't make sense. Their job is to report news, not keep it secret until the appointed time. So I get that. But the end of embargoes can diminish the public's understanding of complex and sometimes conflicting data. If the intent of communication is to create a mutual understanding and not simply inform, then embargoes can play a positive role in encouraging that mutual understanding."
But before completely discontinuing the use of embargoes, Keeney endorses the recommendations made by Kellye -- guidelines for the use of embargoes in this new age:
1. Question whether the news is worthy of an embargo.
2. Reach out to your key relationships in advance and ask if they honor embargoes (and do not include information about the nature of the announcement). Only those who respond in the affirmative should receive your information in advance.