The Trump administration is working on a plan to restrict media access during “lockups” where reporters get advance time to prepare stories based on major reports with market data, including monthly jobs reports, in a move that could impact reporters’ ability to inform the public and create a logjam in accessing figures.
Currently, according to Bloomberg, the Labor Department in Washington has allowed media reporters to receive the data and work on stories ahead of a report’s scheduled release in a secure room on computers disconnected from the internet until the information becomes public.
The department is discussing changes such as removal of computers from that room and could announce the change as early as this week, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
While the rationale was unclear, the government has cited security risks and unfair advantages for news media in prior changes to lockup procedures.
Lockups, which are permitted but not required by government regulations, have been a mainstay for U.S. media for almost four decades. They have been designed to give reporters time to digest figures on market-moving data and make sure they are accurate before distributed en masse to the public. Statistics agencies and central banks in the U.K. and Canada use similar lockup procedures.
The U.S. move would upend decades of practice, and media organizations including Bloomberg News and Reuters have challenged prior changes to procedures. The shift could also spur an arms race among high-speed traders to get the numbers first and profit off the data, raising questions about fairness in multitrillion-dollar financial markets.
The move could also force government websites to handle heavier loads.