"Guy Webster, a spokesman for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which operates Curiosity, said the findings would be "interesting" rather than "earthshaking." Mr. Webster noted that "a really big announcement," if one should occur, would most likely be made at NASA headquarters in Washington and not at an academic conference."
"While it's a little odd that NASA's communication team didn't manage to quickly quash the rumor after the original report aired, Veronica McGregor, NASA's news and social media manager for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told The Slatest late Tuesday night that they did their best to set the story straight."
"Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics."
"The Curiosity rover may have found organic compounds on Mars, Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Charles Elachi said in Rome on Wednesday, according to multiple reports. "Perhaps Curiosity has found simple organic molecules," Elachi said at La Sapienza University, according to La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno. "It's preliminary data that must be checked (on) organic, not biological, molecules." The statement figures to set off a new round of speculation and excitement about the possibility of life on Mars. Elachi, however, made clear that Curiosity cannot find life."
Keith's note: This is just hilarious. NASA JPL PAO has had more than a week to deal with misquotes, parsing, and "what he really meant to say" in connection with John Grotzinger's NPR interview. But only today do they finally admit that all the speculation was incorrect. They could have put this all to bed last week and avoided all of the needless arm waving, speculation, and stories on the evening news.
Keith's update: NASA JPL PAO just tweeted via @MarsCuriosity "Everybody, chill. After careful analysis, there are no Martian organics in recent samples. Update Dec 3". Alas JPL PAO is not allowing offsite media to ask questions at an event that involves the formal release of data obtained by a government space mission. This is a break with NASA PAO practice since Curiosity landed. Offsite media access was not mentioned in the JPL press release (as is always the case). Oddly JPL can't do a standard media dial-in for the MSL event at AGU but theyo ffer a standard dial-in for the Voyager media event - also at AGU - just 2 hours later. NASA SMD PAO refuses to reply to a simple question on this topic. So much for being open.
Keith's update: NASA SMD PAO has still not responded to my question about media access to this event. But if you find this link at AGU you learn that offsite media (and anyone from the public) can only ask questions remotely via a chat function in a box on the webcast once it has started. A teleconference might be set up - but that will ony happen if the webcast is broken - and again anyone can call in - public and media alike. There does not seem to be any way to distinguish what they call "working media" from all other viewers since you can sign up using any name you want. In other words: if you are not in the room, your chance of asking a question as a member of the news media is rather low. Oh well.
AGU says that "Working members of the media may ask questions by emailing them to email@example.com." but they do not exactly explain how you are granted status as "working members of the media" If you register as "working media" online or in person you need to send them 3 articles you have written, provide a press badge etc. But if you register as "media" for this webcast you only have to use your real name.