Featured School Papers:

Know Your J-Jargon

online producer: Someone who creates online pages, sometimes using existing newspaper content and sometimes creating new content.

Learn more J-Jargon »

Lesson Plans

Gil Chesterton
Retired journalism teacher
Full-bio »

Lesson Plans

Classroom Press Conference

Classroom Press Conference

Gil Chesterton from Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Gil Chesterton
Retired from Beverly Hills High School
Beverly Hills, Calif.

Title: Classroom Press Conference


One time-tested, successful method to sharpen students’ interviewing, note taking and writing skills is a classroom press conference. I picked up this idea at an Southern California Journalism Education Association workshop years ago, and it has proved to be an enlightening and rewarding experience.

Beginning journalism students are assigned to invite a guest who would make an interesting story for the school newspaper — or read a journalism — related book and write a report. Guess what! Most students opt for the press conference.

Over the years, a parade of famous and not-so-famous-but-interesting people have come to the classroom to be interviewed. Among our guests: Larry King, talk show host; TV actress Betty White, a graduate of our school; Madonna’s manager; the songwriter who wrote Madonna’s hit song “Like a Virgin”; a nutritionist who visited the school cafeteria before class and brought samples of unhealthy food being sold there; and the founder of a Los Angeles AIDS project and two gay persons, one with AIDS.

While it’s true that being at Beverly Hills provides contacts other schools might not have, many of the guests are acquired the old fashioned way — aggressive pursuit that any would-be reporter ought to possess.

Some examples of creative pursuit of guests: a student called Larry King’s show when it aired in Los Angeles. Would you believe I was listening when I heard a caller say, “Hi, Larry, I’m a journalism student at Beverly Hills High, and I wondered if you would come out and talk to my journalism class?” King said, “Yes,” and did come during his next trip to Los Angeles. Betty White was dating a journalism student’s friend’s father. A Los Angeles Times reporter came to be interviewed when a student saw him featured in one of the newspaper’s television commercials and called the Times to invite him.

However, you don’t need a 90210 ZIP code to acquire interesting guests. The principal makes an annual appearance at the beginning of the year. Besides being a newsworthy conference, it’s good public relations. The mayor and the president of the Board of Education have been guests. Every community has a wealth of press conference possibilities. The bottom line is this: the guest must be a good story possibility for the school newspaper. This challenges the student to come up with a story angle for the newspaper.


Here’s how the press conference assignment works:

  • The student contacts the guest and arranges a calendar date.
  • The student gathers background information from the guest and presents biographical information to the class. Students are required to take notes on this background information to use in their stories.
  • Class members write 10 non-biographical questions and submit them to the teacher, who records them for points in the grade book.
  • The student meets the guest on the day of the press conference and brings the guest to class.
  • The student introduces the guest to the class.
  • The guest is asked to make opening remarks. Then it is up to the class to continue the press conference by asking questions. The teacher records the names of students asking questions because audience participation counts toward their grades.
  • Students are required to write a feature story, minimum length 10 inches (300 words).
  • Stories are graded, and the best story is submitted for publication in the newspaper. The teacher usually Selects the winning story, although the newspaper editors sometimes assist.
  • The student who arranges the press conference writes a thank you note to the guest.

The press conference is an excellent on-the-spot interview, note taking and writing assignment. It is also an opportunity for a Cub to earn a byline and, at the same time, provide interesting feature copy for the newspaper. The press conference can also be an effective teaching tool for a newspaper staff, especially for monthly publications without a beginning journalism class.

This lesson plan is taken from “Ideas: Practical Ideas for Teaching Journalism” from the Southern California Journalism Education Association. To learn more about this book and its 138 lessons, please click here.

Archived Lesson Plans »