According to a recent article in Scientific America, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be engaging in the previously banned practice of manipulating popular news coverage, a tactic that many in the vaping community believe occurs rather frequently. Many of the top science journalists in the United States are finally beginning to express their outrage against the FDA out of utter disgust and frustration. One journalist in particular is even filing a lawsuit against the government agency in an attempt to correct the situation once and for all.
Charles Seife is a Professor of Journalism at New York University, and he alleges that the FDA is engaging in a unique form of media manipulation called a “close-hold embargo.” A close-hold embargo involves the release of new scientific research to only a preselected group of preferred journalists. In exchange for the exclusive news story, the reporters must agree to never contact another scientific expert to verify the validity of the data.
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The FDA and close-hold embargoes
Close-hold embargoes were effectively banned by the FDA back in 2011 because officials believed that the practice effectively eliminates the journalist’s ability to perform due diligence on the related subject matter. This type of media manipulation results is the same unsubstantiated, often bogus, news reports hitting the most popular news outlets at the very same moment. The information is simply reprinted without independent experts having the opportunity to poke holes in the research.
For the FDA to be once again engaging in these sorts of tactics is being viewed by top scientists as rather strange and perhaps even a bit devious. Why would such a powerful government organization insist that their scientific research goes unchecked by the American Public unless the FDA has something to hide? According to Charles Seife, the FDA is engaging in close-hold embargoes more frequently than many people might expect.
"This policy [against close-hold embargoes] still stands, just as it did before the last close-hold embargo. The smart money says that the agency's unofficial policy still stands, too—and the favoritism and close-hold embargoes continue. It is apparently too sweet an arrangement for the FDA simply to walk away."
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NPR reporter Rob Stein agrees
National Public Radio, otherwise knowns as NPR, is perhaps the most reputable, unbiased news organization in the United States. Because NPR does not solicit outside commercial sponsors like mainstream and cable news outlets, its news reports tend to provide its listeners the unvarnished, purest version of the facts. Yet even NPR journalists like Rob Stein take issue with the FDA’s return to close-hold embargoes.
On a recent occasion, Stein was offer the opportunity to release FDA research without the ability to send the information to another scientist for a second opinion. When Stein asked the FDA official releasing the data if due diligence would be possible, he was turned down flat. If Stein wanted the exclusive news story, he had to abide by the rules of close-hold embargoes.
Who else were among the elite group of journalist allowed to collect the FDA news report well in advance of everyone else? According to Stein, journalists from The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, and CBS made the cut. And everyone automatically reprinted the FDA research without giving it a second thought.
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