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Some More Info on the Embargo Matter

Sunday, June 29, 2008 • 12:16 am

A member just emailed me with a question which makes me believe she’s not the only one who has the wrong impression of the situation surrounding the embargo snafu.

The comment that caught my attention was this one:

...I feel compelled to point out to you that if Conger entrusted the document under embargo to you, he is entirely justified in feeling let down, to say the least, that what you and others repeatedly refer to as an ‘honest mistake’...

George Conger did not send out the GAFCON statement. It was sent out by the GAFCON press office.

What follows is a slightly modified version of what I emailed her in reply:

George did not send out the document. It was sent out by the press office at GAFCON, to a large group of bloggers and mainstream journalists. Neither did George play any role in establishing or enforcing an embargo. He is simply a member of the press/blogger community who received the statement, just like we did here at SF.

Yesterday (Friday) we all received a media advisory from the GAFCON press office that the statement would be released Saturday at 10pm Jerusalem time (2pm central time, which is my time zone). The media advisory read:

Info to the media on final GAFCON statement

The first draft of the GAFCON Conference Statement was presented to the pilgrims on Friday, and was very well received. The respective provinces were then asked to discuss and study the draft document, and recommend additional comments and changes.

The Statement Committee will work on the proposals on Saturday, and present a final draft to the Leadership Team Saturday evening. The Media Team hopes to release the final statement, together with a press release, to accredited media around 10pm Saturday evening.

A printed version of the statement will also be presented and read to the pilgrims in the plenary on Sunday June 29, at 9.45am, for a brief final review and adoption.

(Emphasis mine).

Note that an embargo was not mentioned.

10pm Saturday Jerusalem time came and went, and we eventually got word that the statement would be delayed. We posted a short notice to that effect on the site. The SF bloggers were about to pack it in and re-convene at midnight when at 3:46 central time this afternoon (11:46 PM Jerusalem time), we all got an email with the subject “GAFCON - final statement” and an attached PDF.

Having been told by the press office to expect the statement - not an embargoed statement, but “the statement” - at 2pm my time, I assumed the press office was simply late issuing the statement. I opened the attached PDF, copied the text, and posted it.

Usually when a document is embargoed, it says so prominently in the subject of the email, or at the top of the attached document itself. In this case, nothing was on the statement itself. I then looked at the body of the email and saw that it was embargoed, so I immediately pulled down my post.

However, the embargo expiry was listed as “10:00 /8:00 GMT”.

I assumed they meant 10:00pm Jerusalem time, which is what we had been told in the advisory email yesterday. Since it was 3:46 (an hour and forty-six minutes past 10:00 Jerusalem time), I put the post back up. At that point, Sarah pointed out that the time was correct, but that the date was the 29th. I pulled the post a second time. This time, it had stayed up for between 30 and 60 seconds.

Our blog software notifies several RSS aggregator services whenever a post is made. Bloglines picked up the ping and published it automatically. Problem is, when you close a published post, it doesn’t remove it from those third-party services immediately; sometimes they hang around for several minutes or even several hours. During one of the two brief periods when the post was up, Bloglines picked up our feed, which contains the full text of our posts.

I then began wondering whether the “10:00 /8:00 GMT” embargo expiry was 1000 / 0800 GMT (10:00am / 8:00am) or 2200 / 2000 (10:00pm / 8:00pm) and was about to email the press office for clarification when we saw that Fulcrum had copied the statement - either from our site, or from an aggregator service - and posted it, and mentioned in their post that we had done so first. They were asked to take it down, but they refused. By then, Ruth Gledhill had also posted it.

We were faced with a decision: Allow the story to develop at two sites, neither of which are particularly sympathetic to GAFCON’s mission, or publish at our site, which hosts the largest Anglican blog community in the world, and one that’s very friendly to GAFCON. We chose to put the post back up.

I have apologized as best I know how for my mistakes regarding this, and I take full responsibility for breaking the embargo.

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