Resources for media

Resources for journalists

The BMJ Group press office provides registered journalists with full access to embargoed press releases via the media database Gorkana (http://www.gorkanadatabase.com).

Journalists must be registered with Gorkana in order to receive our press releases.

If you are not already registered, please email healthhub@gorkana.com with your name, job title, publication, e-mail, areas / sectors covered, website / blog / twitter handle (if applicable). Please specify that you cover health under areas/sectors and please also copy us into the e-mail on pressreleases@bmjgroup.com so that we can add you to our distribution list.

Full access to bmj.com is also free for journalists. To register for free access, please email the BMJ Group Press Office (edickinson@bmjgroup.com or sburns@bmjgroup.com) with your details so that we can process your request.

Release of material to the media

We do not want material that is published in the BMJ appearing beforehand, in detail, in the mass media. If this happens doctors and patients may be presented with incomplete material that has not been peer reviewed, and this makes it hard for them to make up their own minds on the validity of the message. We accept that reports may appear in the media after presentations at scientific meetings.

Those authors who wish us to publish their papers can clarify matters for journalists, but should not give the media any further information than was included in their scientific presentations.

Articles may be withdrawn from publication in the BMJ if given media coverage while under consideration or in press at the journal.

The BMJ press release process

Every week, we press release what we perceive to be the most interesting, new or important material from the BMJ. This can include original research papers, analysis articles, commentaries, editorials or letters.

The press releases aim to promote the journal, the science, and perform some public service. They are not intended to endorse particular policies or boost the profile of individual organisations.

For this reason, we have a strict policy of not including anyone on the BMJ press release list other than journalists. Lobby/consumer/charity/campaign groups are all excluded because we have to be seen to be completely independent, and not to favour any organisation or group.

We currently have over 5000 UK and overseas journalists on the press list. The press releases are also posted onto the internet on the BMJ page of EurekAlert (the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science).

When writing a press release, we aim to give a balanced summary of the material to which it refers. The overall message of the research is contained within the first paragraph, while the remainder of the release describes in simple terms how the authors arrived at their conclusions – who did they study; where; how; why and when, and what did they find?

We always provide a point of contact for further information or setting up interviews and this is usually the corresponding author or their press office.

We email the draft press release to the corresponding author to approve and to check for accuracy and clarity and for the correct contact details. We normally give authors only 24 to 48 hours to respond to press releases, owing to extremely tight printing and publicity schedules.

The author is responsible for advising any co-authors that their research is being released to the media. If an author is not available to speak to journalists, they are asked to nominate an alternative point of contact (usually a co-author).

We also ask for a mobile or home telephone number, not necessarily for publication on the press release, but for use in case the press officer is called by journalists out of office hours and needs to contact the author (e.g. to set up an evening or early morning interview).

Journalists will call the numbers provided on the press release, so authors must make clear any numbers they do not wish to be included on the release.

Occasionally we are unable to make contact with the corresponding author or any co-authors by email or telephone. In such cases, we may ask a journal editor to approve the press release and act as a point of contact for journalists.

Speaking to journalists

Once an author has agreed to be a contact, they must ensure that they are available for comment and are willing to talk to journalists directly, usually over the telephone.

Journalists work under very tight deadlines. Morning newspaper reporters have to write their copy by late afternoon. Evening newspapers’ deadlines are before 9am the following day for the first edition, so try to return any calls as soon as possible. It is worth remembering that journalism is a free marketing opportunity to put your work and your organisation before millions.

Expect to receive up to about 10 calls. However, if your research is particularly topical or controversial, you could receive many more than this. If you are swamped with calls or can no longer continue taking calls, please contact the press office IMMEDIATELY. We can try to arrange for a co-author to help out, or we can find an alternative specialist in the same field who can give a general comment about the research.

Please don’t just ignore journalists in the hope that they will "go away." The story will simply appear without your expert views and input, and so may be inaccurate or misleading.

Press embargoes

The BMJ now publishes its articles continuously to bmj.com, so press releases are embargoed until 23:30 hours (UK time) on the day of online publication. Very occasionally, we may issue a press release with no embargo (i.e. for immediate publication) but this is rare.

We do not place embargoes on our material for the fun of it - they are there to ensure that important health information reaches the public domain in a responsible manner. Embargoes also enable competing journalists to work to a common deadline, giving them ample time to contact authors and other related experts, clarify any misunderstandings, and write the story well.

If we press release your research and you are contacted by journalists from anywhere in the world, they can interview you beforehand but should not broadcast or publish anything before the embargo. If you are contacted please remind journalists that you are giving an interview on the understanding that they will not break our strict embargo.

Our comprehensive distribution database for press releases means that we can usually guarantee much greater coverage for authors and the journal than if authors decide to go it alone and issue their own press release.

However, if we decide not to press release a particular item, we are happy for authors (or their organisations) to issue their own press releases. We do insist though that they let us know, so that we can co-ordinate publicity for maximum effect.

The embargo system works well, but only if everybody involved observes the rules (journalists, authors, their research institutions, and other interested third parties). A broken embargo usually limits the overall media coverage because other journalists will not want to report a story that’s already been released early. Moreover, the resulting chaos could undermine the embargo system for all of the BMJ Group journals.

For further information or assistance regarding press releases, please contact:

For further information or assistance regarding press releases, please contact: BMJ Group Press Office T: +44 (0)20 7383 6529 / 6920 E: edickinson@bmjgroup.com/ sburns@bmjgroup.com

The BMJ Group Press Office is staffed Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm For out of hours urgent media enquiries only please call +44 (0)7825 118107

Research about workforces

Informing workforces about the results of research in which they have participated before publication in mass media: Research undertaken with workforces can take place only with their full cooperation. Understandably, they expect to hear from the researchers about the results of the research and its implications for them before publication in the mass media.

These guidelines advise researchers how to do this without allowing the results to leak into the mass media before the full peer reviewed research has been published:

  • the onus is on researchers to meet with the workforce
  • they should make arrangements but keep journals aware of what is happening
  • the researchers will meet with the workforce early in the week of publication
  • the journals will not put out press releases until after the meeting between researchers and workforces has taken place

The researchers and workforce managers and representatives will emphasise the importance of maintaining the embargo, but workforce managers and representatives will be able to speak to the media on the understanding that the embargo is respected.