Students learn the essentials of journalistic writing at Capitol press conference

The day-to-day role of a news writer entails many tasks, from conducting interviews to investigating stories and writing articles.  One such task is attending and participating in press conferences.  Yet, for a novice writer this can be intimidating.

Students gathered in the Wisconsin Assembly chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday October 5 for a mock press conference.
Students gathered in the Wisconsin Assembly Chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday October 5th for a mock press conference.

Not so for the students of LSC 111: Science and Technology Newswriting.  Continuing with tradition, Department of Life Sciences Communication instructor Michael Flaherty arranged a mock press conference at the Wisconsin State Capitol just for the students of LSC 111.  These prospective writers will feel more comfortable heading into future press conferences having participated in a practice press conference in the Wisconsin Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol.

The mock press conference, which took place on Wednesday October 5th, featured Frank Frassetto, director of the consumer protection division of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection(DATCP).  The focus of the press conference was DATCP’s recent warning to consumers that they’ve discovered credit card skimmers at gas pumps around the state that enable thieves to steal credit card information.

“The mock press conference at the Capitol is an exercise most students really enjoy because it gives them some real-time experience in interviewing, reporting and writing a news story.” notes Flaherty. “It’s also a great way for our students to have some contact with senior officials at state agencies that play an extremely important role in our state’s economy.”

“This is a great opportunity because when I was your age I didn’t have this opportunity,” noted DATCP’s Frassetto before beginning the conference.  “Even though this is mock – this is what we do.” The conference began with Frassetto issuing a warning to consumers before moving on to overviewing the state’s strategy to combat the illegal skimmers. The conference was then opened up to the students for questions.

LSC 111 mock press releaseThroughout the conference, Flaherty encouraged students to ask follow-up questions and take thorough notes. He discussed the importance of taking diligent notes in order to accurately quote sources and how journalists can follow-up to get more information on breaking news.

Flaherty is a seasoned writer himself. A former business and government reporter at the Wisconsin State Journal, Flaherty is now a senior lecturer in LSC, and the president of his own public policy communications and public relations firm.

Following the press conference, the students were tasked with writing a news story based on the information provided at the conference. The student stories needed to communicate the relevant news updates, overview the technology currently being found at gas stations, and inform consumers what they can do to help protect themselves.

The mock press conference is one example of the unique opportunities provided to LSC students to help them practice their skills and ensure they have the knowledge needed to be successful after graduation.