The Columbus Dispatch was told by Skybus that the airline would be shutting down. And instead of reporting the story, they sent a reporter to fly the last flight and cover the story. The reporter traveled alongside all the passengers who would soon learn that they had no return ticket to Columbus, instead of letting folks know they might not want to get onto the plane.
The paper explains that they honor news embargoes — they were given the information on the condition they not use it until 9:30pm. They’re proud of themselves for actually sharing the information earlier… when another news organization already broke the story, they didn’t wait to post it either! Well, bully for them.
We discovered that the local ABC/Fox television stations were telling people at the airport about the shutdown and had posted a story on their Web sites. Before we published anything or told anyone, we contacted our source, who released us from the agreement.
But… they only posted the story because Skybus told them it was ok! “[H]ad the source not waived the embargo, we would have waited until 9:30 p.m. to post the story on Dispatch.com.” That’s just stupid. Once another news organization reports it, it’s out there and it’s news and there’s no longer any meaningful embargo.
I get embargoes, and this is just a case where the paper looks bad because passengers were put out as a result of their honoring it. The paper says the consequences would have to be really bad and not just bad in order to violate their promise. Ok, fair enough, consumers have to evaluate whether they trust the judgment of this particular news outlet in deciding whether to get their news from them.
But they go on to justify the embargo as somehow noble, and that’s just silly.
In this case, Skybus wasn’t looking to make a splash; it just wanted to break the news to its employees before they read it on a Web site or heard it on radio or television. And Skybus probably didn’t want to upset pilots (or passengers) before or during their flights.
Well, Skybus could have broken the news to its employees before they read it on a web site very easily by telling their employees before calling up reporters.
And I’m not sure you can call it noble to not upset passengers before their flights, and instead upset them after they’ve flown away from home and caused them to incur new expenses in order to get back. That’s just silly, and disingenous on the part of the Columbus Dispatch.
(Hat tip to Online Travel Review.)