Harry Potter and the Ignored Embargo

You can't stop Harry Potter. You can't even hope to contain him.

According to reports, some party poopers have decided to post details about the final installment of the Harry Potter series, scheduled for sale on Saturday – with one spoilsport going so far as to take pictures of each and every page and upload them onto the web. According to

Someone has meticulously snapped shots of each page. Some who've discussed leaked copies say that they've seen only Pages 1 through 495. But the copy I have includes all the pages; I could, if I wanted to, tell you the very last line of the very last Harry Potter book right now…

How did "Potter" get out? I have no idea. One account fingers a Canadian fellow named Byron Ng who says he stumbled upon the cache after some intrepid Web searching. But it's a complete mystery who posted the pictures. The person's fingers can be seen in some of the shots, and there's an occasional glimpse of a brown shoe. All you can tell is that the person is white and has a taste for drab carpeting -- not to mention extremely good connections.

So you've got the irritating people who want to spoil the plot for everyone. Then you've got today's New York Times review of the book – which they purchase from some magical, mystical bookstore that sells books early – which avoids giving away plot points in a fit of journalistic gymnastics that made my head hurt:
J. K. Rowling's monumental, spellbinding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas — from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to "Star Wars." And true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, "Soprano"-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big-screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people's fates. Getting to the finish line is not seamless — the last part of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final book in the series, has some lumpy passages of exposition and a couple of clunky detours — but the overall conclusion and its determination of the main characters' story lines possess a convincing inevitability that make some of the prepublication speculation seem curiously blinkered in retrospect.
"Overall conclusion," "inevitability," "clearly lays out people's fates." Huh? Score one for the New York Times refusing to give away too much, but take away two points for such an unreadable passage. What the heck is she saying? It's like reading a mobius strip. Ow.

Here at CBS, the law has been laid down – and in no uncertain terms. Even in the online division, we're insisting on keeping Harry Potter's secret. And if we weren't sure going into the weekend's hype, another little e-mail from Senior Producer, News Programs,Entertainment, and Interactives Mary-Jayne McKay slid into everyone's e-mailboxes yesterday:

Just a reminder that we will not spoil the new Harry Potter reading experience for our viewers. We can - and should - write stories about the spoilers out there, but we shouldn't do any spoiling ourselves, not even if we preface it with an alert.
True, the news industry is committed to communicating major – and all too often, not-so-major – events to the world. But the news event here is the book's release, not Harry Potter's fate. When the light goes down in the movie theater, when the book is cracked open ... that's where the journalist's beat ends and the reviewer's – with their heightened discretion and different standards of reporting – needs to begin.