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What Is a News Conference?

An impromptu news conference is often referred to as a "media scrum".
In a high-profile press conference, reporters jockey for position to have a question answered.
News conferences may have a public forum part to address public concerns.
A news conference is held to release information to the public.
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  • Written By: Jan Fletcher
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
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A news conference is a venue in which a person or organization releases information to news reporters and journalists. The people in charge of the conference will generally create a list of specific individuals and representatives of the media who will be invited to the event. These invitees may be given a press pass, which is sometimes a formal letter of invitation or may be simply an acknowledgment that the person is a legitimate representative of the press.

News released at a conference is considered to be on the record, which means the information is intended for release to the general public. Prior to the news conference, a news reporter may be given the exact same information in advance, but may be told that the news is to be embargoed until the actual conference occurs. Such information released to a group of reporters ahead of a press event, or disclosed to a reporter for the purpose of giving him or her background information, may be off the record. Giving a reporter off-the-record information works on an honor system. A reporter who violates off-the-record or embargoed information will likely suffer a loss of reputation, and will not receive news tips from that source again.

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For the typical reporter, cultivating a stable of reliable sources ensures the reporter will have opportunities to report an event before a rival. This is referred to as a “scoop,” or breaking news. News reporting is a highly competitive industry, and reliable sources who may give a reporter exclusive tips are highly valued by journalists. Embargoing news allows a more even playing field for a group of reporters to have an equal opportunity to report news. By having foreknowledge of what will be discussed, the reporter will be better prepared to ask appropriate questions during the conference, rather than having to think quickly and compete with other reporters in fielding questions.

In a high-profile press conference, reporters jockey for position to have a question answered. An example of a high-profile conference would be a press conference in which a famous person or high-level politician responds to a public revelation of a scandal, or addresses fears in the wake of a disaster. A news conference may be planned or impromptu. In some English-speaking nations, an impromptu press conference may be referred to as a media scrum. Press conferences that are convened to release information that is more of a promotional nature than a newsworthy event is a pseudo event.

Communications technology, such as video conferencing, may be used to conduct a news conference, because it allows for accepting questions from those not physically present. “Conferencing in” to a news conference via a telephone was used in 2011, when the U.S. Census results were released. Callers waited in a phone queue for an opportunity to ask census officials specific questions.

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