Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s
As readers know, jobs day is an especially big day around here. Actually it’s a big day everywhere.The release of non-farm payrolls data on the first Friday of every month has massive implications for markets and politics, not to mention the national mood.
And now that day is going to be thrown into anarchy.
See, the way it works now is reporters from all the major news networks are taken into a “lockup” room at the Department of labour about half an hour before the data is released at 8:30. While there, they’re completely shut off from the outside world: No phones, live computer lines or anything. It’s just them and the release.
So all the agencies prepare the data, and then instantly transmit it out from their own terminals at 8:30 when a switch is flipped.
But all that’s about to change.
The agency ordered media organisations to remove computer software, hardware and communications lines they have installed at the department to transmit news on data such as the unemployment rate and consumer prices. Instead, reporters will have to use government equipment, software and Internet connections.
Under the current system, credentialed journalists in so- called lockups are given data in advance of their release to the public, allowing time to prepare stories, headlines and tables. Communication by phone or computer is cut off for the half hour that reporters are typically given to write their stories. A Department of labour employee then flips a switch that opens telephone and data lines, allowing journalists to transmit their stories using their own equipment.
With the new system, journalists in the lockup will have to rely on government-provided Internet access to send their stories, with no guarantee they can connect to the Internet at the same time. Currently, news organisations taking part in the lockups can maintain their own lines. The changes would take effect with the release of data on the unemployment rate and non-farm payrolls on July 6.
News organisations are freaking out because there was no consultation with them, and they fear that without their own data and their own connections, the process will be disorganized, inconsistent, and difficult to plan for. And they worry then that the data will come out piecemeal (IE the headline jobs number might come out before sub-data like U-6).
For most people this may not be a big deal, but for markets that rely on the consistent transmission of data, this could create anarchy.
The changes will go into effect this summer. It should be interesting to see how things change.
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