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Covering a Catastrophe: Press Conference Simulation

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Students stage a mock press conference to experience the process and challenges of effectively communicating and disseminating information.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 30-60 minutes

MATERIALS: Preparing for a Press Conference handout (download)

PREPARE: Print copies of the handout; half of the students will get the one marked Press, the other half will get Mayor’s Office. Note: We recommend that you do the Sourcing the Information activity first.


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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


  1. Tell students: One way reporters may gather information about a disaster is by attending a press conference. Officials hold press conferences to share information with the public via the press/journalists. Reporters hope to find out about new developments in a story and gather fresh information that they can then report to the public.
  2. Tell students they’re going to put on a simulated press conference to experience how it works, including the challenges of both sharing and gathering information in this setting.
  3. Distribute the Preparing for a Press Conference worksheets. Half of the class will act as reporters, and the other half will act as representatives from the mayor’s office. (If your class is large, you may want to create two teams representing the press and two teams representing the mayor’s office.)
  4. Allow students time to read the background information and prepare their facts/questions.
  5. Conduct the press conference simulation according to the directions on the worksheets.
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After the simulation, discuss the students’ experiences. Prompts:

  • What was that experience like? Was it stressful? Frustrating? Informative?
  • What was the most difficult part of the experience? What was the easiest?
  • What was it like being a reporter in this situation? How did you decide what questions to ask? Were all of your questions answered?
  • What was it like being a public official in this situation? Was it difficult to field the reporters’ questions? How did you decide which questions to answer?
  • Did the reporters and the officials have the same goals for the press conference?
  • Make a chart of the pros and cons of using press conferences as a source of information for reporting on a catastrophic event, from the perspective of the general public.


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