AP, Daily News beat embargo on new J.K. Rowling book, ‘The Casual Vacancy’

The Washington Post | Poynter
Both the Associated Press and the New York Daily News published reviews of J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” Wednesday, ahead of an embargo set by the book’s publisher. “Because they alone had reviews, those two organizations set the tone for readers’ perception of the book,” Neely Tucker writes in The Washington Post.

The Post and the New York Times refrained from publishing their staff-written reviews online Wednesday, though The Post put AP’s review on its Web site. The Post’s executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, said he thinks the publishing industry is ultimately “fighting a losing battle.”

Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward’s books, Tucker notes, are “subject to strict embargoes,” which has caused his employer headaches in the past. In 2010, The New York Times published nuggets from Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars” ahead of The Post, which was excerpting the book on a schedule agreed upon with its publisher. “It’s just not correct to say that the Post was ‘scooped,” The Post’s Steve Luxenberg told Keach Hagey at the time. “We have an agreement that we honor. That’s not the same thing as being beat.”

The Daily Beast obtained an early copy of Woodward’s most recent book and published excerpts this month; The Post quickly followed with a Luxenberg-bylined piece that revealed some of the book’s contents and teased the full excerpt the paper would run that weekend.

After The New Yorker broke an embargo and reviewed a film early, Peter Kafka wrote last December that embargoes, and discussions thereof, “can matter a lot (sometimes) to us, but that’s really only because we decide to agree that it matters. Readers don’t care at all.”

But this is a nice reminder that every time I do deal with one of these, it almost always means I’m not spending time on something [genuinely] interesting.

In 2003, Jen Bluestein explained the practice of embargoes in Slate and wrote “publishing is a game in which rules are meant to be bent; everyone involved knows that some leaks are good, some are bad.”

In extreme cases, reporters may choose to abide by the terms of an embargo in part because they need to maintain good relations with the publisher or source of the embargo.

Book critic Mark Athitakis tweeted Thursday morning that such thinking was weak justification for honoring Rowling’s publisher’s strictures.

Related: The New Yorker, USA Today deny J.K. Rowling quote approval | Poynter polled readers about how often they honored embargoes

Correction: The AP did not break the embargo, as we originally wrote, because it never agreed to the embargo or to the publisher’s other terms.

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  • http://twitter.com/profkrg Kenna Griffin

    I don’t know why publicists still expect embargoes to be enforced or why media agencies still agree to adhere to them. It’s such an outdated concept.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749911534 Anonymous

    It was Deepti Hajela is an American journalist who is has been a newswoman for the Associated Press since 1996. She works in the New York bureau of the AP, covering a wide range of stories in the metropolitan region. In addition to breaking news and feature stories, she occasionally does music and book reviews (including quick-turnaround reviews of some of the Harry Potter books in the days after their release). She was president of the South Asian Journalists Association from 2005-2008.[1]
    Hajela is a 1996 graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749911534 Anonymous

    Who wrote the Ap story? Hillel Italie or Deepti Hajela ?

  • Anonymous

    Glad they did. It’s about time someone stood up to Rowling and her publisher, Penguin. They have been bullying the reading public for years. Penguin still has not settled the DoJ suit over Penguin’s and Apples’ collaboration on price fixing. More power to those who stick it to them.

  • Anonymous

    big deal. next week or next month or next year, is anyone going ro remember or care who got the, uh, “scoop” and published the very first review of rowling’s latest book? i don’t think so.