3

I was watching Al-Jazeera PM news yesterday, and a bulletin about the "US fresh allegations that Assad was using a crematorium to hide evidence of mass killings" came up.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a video of the news (and the one in the linked page is very brief), but at some point the presenter was interviewing an analyst in Washington (cannot remember who). She asked this person, "what can motivate such announcement?", to which the analyst said something like

it is not clear. I mean, it is a Monday, there is no major international meeting going on, ...

This struck me immediately. I went online to find out why the day of the week of a release would matter, but I think I don't have the concepts require to find something like that. "Press release day of week", or other stuff lead me nowhere. And yet, the comment from the analyst made clear that the issue of the day of the week is (to her at least) self-evident, such as to put it in the first point of her list.

Why is the day of a press release a relevant motivation from the political perspective? Is the impact expected to be different?

I can see that a press release on a Friday could perhaps lead to big headlines during the weekend, where perhaps, people pay more attention. But there "has" to be more to it. Is there?

UPDATE

The issue of news in Mondays seems to be more general. For example, today (Monday 6 Nov), The Guardian and other newspapers have released the "Paradise Papers", about tax havens in Bermuda in their printed editions (although the online appeared on Sunday at 18:00). Similarly, The Guardian published the Panama Papers online on a Sunday Evening (18:50 BST, as can be seen here), but in written the Monday after. BBC news has given plenty of coverage to the issue.

  • 4
    My understanding, at least in the US and UK, was that the traditional thinking was that Friday afternoon was for stories you didn't want people discussing over the water cooler, as per : npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4725120 – origimbo May 16 '17 at 10:23
  • 2
    The concept is old, and it is often refered to as timing. – SJuan76 May 16 '17 at 15:26
  • 1
    About the VTC, There is are bolded sentences with question marks and similar ones in the title. What's unclear? There is definitely a conventional wisdom and past examples available, and possibly research. – user9389 May 16 '17 at 15:51
  • 1
    @DavidBlomstrom Sorry, but it is not "the dirty tricks of the media". The report was released by the Department of State less than 24 hours ago, the media are just reproducing the news as soon as it is reported to them. But hey, why let reality (or just reading what the OP asks) stay in the way of a good tirade? – SJuan76 May 16 '17 at 22:47
  • 2
    @DavidBlomstrom emmm... I hate to explain what is just plain English, but press releases are done by the organization providing the news, not by the organization reproducing it. It was "a press release" by the Department of State, which was the organization which disclosed the information and that decided the date (and location) of disclosure. The Department of State saying that there is a crematorium of Syria is a press release; a newspaper reproducing it is not "a press release". But I will be happy to help you if you have more difficulties understanding these basic terms, you are welcome. – SJuan76 May 16 '17 at 23:01
3

All governments try to communicate their policies to the public, and encourage the media to portray them in a positive fashion. Some are more successful than others.

Timing is of course a part of government communication strategy. If you are announcing policies which you expect to be popular, you might spread the announcements out to achieve the greatest possible impact. For unpopular policies like tax rises, the reverse might be true; announce them all at once, perhaps just before a major holiday or sporting event, and people may not pay as much attention.

For example, the UK Labour government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (1997-2010) made particularly strong efforts to control the timing of government announcements:

As in opposition, the high command tried to keep to a grid of media announcements, parcelling out releases to fit the government's narrative. The grid, held at Downing Street, metered out policy, controlling the agenda. Trouble was, as Mr Blair conceded yesterday, as 24/7 news and, later, web news took off, a daily grid became inadequate; news cycles shortened to hours.

But as the quote indicates, this technique is becoming less effective with the rise of the Internet as a news source.

  • I am aware of a case in the U.K. where several government agencies sent out a memo while the events of 9/11 were unfolding that any bad news from the department should be published today, because they clearly weren't getting talked about. Can't find sources at this moment, just remember reading about it once upon a time. – hszmv Nov 6 '17 at 21:16
  • @hszmv: It was a suggestion by a senior aide to the then Transport Secretary. The UK government of the time found it embarrassing and very much out of line. It certainly wasn't a strategic decision by "several government agencies". news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1588323.stm – Royal Canadian Bandit Nov 6 '17 at 22:55
  • Thank you for the correction. Again, it's been a while since I read anything about it and I was lead to believe it was a bigger problem. Although I do consider myself more knowledgeable about UK government than my typical American bretheren, that knowlege mostly comes from watching "Yes, Minister/Prime Minister". Could be me conflating the real incident with something Sir Humphrey did, as it does sound like something Sir Humphrey would do. Or did do. – hszmv Nov 7 '17 at 13:24
2

Yes when a press release happens is largely about political strategy. with the 24hr news cycle most stories burn out the same day unless they are really big. Weekends also tend to be dominated by weekly review programs and more people are off enjoying their time off rather than paying constant attention to the news. Monday is often partially a review of anything that happened over the weekend, but a big release will get more coverage than the review parts. this leaves a few basic rules for timing a release.

  • Friday is good for unpopular news where minimal exposure is preferred.
  • Weekends get less coverage in general, but the rarity of weekend release can make them more notable.
  • Monday stories can cover up weekend revelations, or mix in with the noise of the weekend.
  • other weekdays a release will get the most coverage.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .