I’m relieved to learn from today’s Los Angeles Times that I’m not the only embargo-defier in the press corps. Meet my fellow scofflaw, Peter Jennings. Jennings broke the embargo of exit-poll data in an item he wrote and posted yesterday on ABCNews.com while the Michigan polls were still open. Previewing his evening newscast, Jennings wrote:
At the time we are writing this, we are seeing the first wave of exit polls from the Michigan Republican primary. The exit polls are one of the most fascinating tools we have to understand the electorate, and while we don’t rely on them to project winners and losers, at this time of the day they are a very good indication of who is doing what to whom. Right now, John McCain and George W. Bush are statistically dead even–not a deep breath between them.
ABC spokesperson Eileen Murphy told the Times that Jennings had caused no harm in releasing the exit-poll data early, and went so far as to say that Jennings’ preview might even have inspired some Michiganders to vote because the polls indicated “a dead heat.”
In other words, ABC officially agrees with my “Press Box” column of yesterday that the embargo is pointless. Unfortunately, Jennings’ harmless and maybe even constructive act won’t be repeated because, as Murphy told the Times, it violates ABC policy.