Releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon in an attempt to avoid media scrutiny is often called a “Friday news dump” by members of the media.
This timing is often chosen strategically, aiming to minimize media coverage, public attention, and potential scrutiny that may arise from the news being released.
The concept of the Friday news dump is rooted in the understanding that news cycles tend to be slower over the weekends, with fewer journalists and news outlets actively covering breaking stories.
By releasing significant information on a Friday, individuals or organizations hope that the news will receive limited media coverage and public attention, allowing controversial or unfavorable news to go relatively unnoticed or fade quickly.
The Friday news dump practice is perceived by critics as a deliberate attempt to bury or downplay news that may have negative implications or public backlash.
As NPR notes:
Often, the White House sets the release of bad news and unflattering documents to late Friday afternoon. The Pentagon and other agencies also use the practice, a legacy of earlier administrations.
Various types of information can be subject to a Friday news dump, including policy changes, government reports, legal documents, internal memos, or even personal disclosures.
This tactic has been employed by politicians, government agencies, corporations, or other entities seeking to manage the timing and perception of significant news developments.
The television show The West Wing had an episode on the technique called, “Take Out the Trash Day.”
Donna: What’s take out the trash day?
Donna: I mean, what is it?
Josh: Any stories we have to give the press that we’re not wild about, we give all in a lump on Friday.
Donna: Why do you do it in a lump?
Josh: Instead of one at a time?
Donna: I’d think you’d want to spread them out.
Josh: They’ve got X column inches to fill, right? They’re going to fill them no matter what.
Josh: So if we give them one story, that story’s X column inches.
Donna: And if we give them five stories …
Josh: They’re a fifth the size.
Donna: Why do you do it on Friday?
Josh: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.
Donna: You guys are real populists, aren’t you?
Over time, advancements in technology and the rise of social media have complicated the effectiveness of the tactic.
While the traditional news cycle may have slowed over weekends, news now spreads rapidly through digital platforms, allowing stories to gain traction even outside of traditional media outlets.
As a result, the impact can be diminished as news and reactions can still reach a wide audience, despite the timing of the release.
Use of “Friday news dump” in a sentence:
- The controversial report on government misconduct was conveniently released as a Friday news dump, hoping to limit public attention and avoid immediate accountability.
- The administration’s decision to implement a controversial policy change was met with backlash, but they strategically timed the announcement as a Friday news dump, hoping it would go relatively unnoticed over the weekend.
- Observers noted the pattern of important news being released on Fridays, leading to suspicions of a deliberate Friday news dump strategy employed by the government to control the news cycle and minimize public scrutiny.