Reporters to no longer get an early look at some economic data

The data includes high-profile reports on unemployment, retail sales and inflation

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The long-standing process of allowing news reporters to examine economic data ahead of public release is coming to an end.

The U.S. Labor Department says the data includes high-profile reports on unemployment, retail sales and inflation.

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The department for decades has given news organizations 30 minutes to an hour ahead of release to assess the numbers and prepare news reports to be distributed once the data is officially released.

The announcement was made Tuesday by William Beach, commissioner of the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Beach said that the past two months, when all such “lockups” had been suspended over the coronavirus pandemic, had shown that the absence of the lockups did not cause much of a time delay or a decline in the accuracy of news reports.

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“The recent COVID-19 experience demonstrates that DOL can eliminate the overhead and risk of lock-up rooms altogether without degrading the quality or timeliness of media coverage,” Beach said in a letter to the news organizations.

Early this year, the department had announced its intention to remove computers from the secure room in which reporters had been given an early look at economic reports. The department said it would still allow reporters to have time to study the reports before they were released via the government’s website, but they would have to do so without the benefit of electronic devices.

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The Associated Press and several other news organizations protested that that decision would make the economic data releases less secure and less useful to the public.

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The news organizations also asserted that the department’s new policy would fail to meet its stated objective of leveling the playing field between high-speed investment firms, which trade off the data, and the general public.

Since then, the two sides had been engaged in negotiations toward a potential compromise.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.