On Feb 2, six HPU journalism students spent a Saturday afternoon
training with the Hawai‘i Army National Guard, 305th
Press Camp Headquarters, in a “media operation center
exercise” or MOCEX.
In December, Kalamalama Faculty Editor, Dr. Larry LeDoux,
received the first public invitation outside this Army unit,
from Staff Sergeant Vincent Oliver, 305th MPAD Training and
Operations NCO, of the 9th Regional Readiness Command.
According to Oliver, “The purpose of the exercise is
to train military public affairs personnel and civilian journalism
students in the realm of military public affairs doctrine.”
The subject of the exercise was the unit’s, and the
media’s response to terrorist event at a fictitious
local nuclear reactor. Oliver added, “The ultimate
goal was to expose both groups to the Army public affairs
operations in order to familiarize both with how things typically
work in a joint civilian-military working environment.”
The six HPU students were, Ku’ulei Funn, Susie Lin,
Sara Mattison, Barbara Payomo, Fetia Solomon, and David Yogi.
Two HPU journalism faculty, John Windrow and Mary Varsino,
both of whom also work for The Honolulu Advertiser, helped
evaluate the exercise.
The Army guests were inducted through a military registration
line where they presented their identification card and received
a badge with their real names and a fictional or real media
organization which they represented.
Some media groups that were represented were Kalamalama,
Fox News, CNN, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The San Francisco
Chronicle, and The Honolulu Advertiser.
Students were given a copy of the briefing beforehand to
prepare themselves for the joint exercise. They had to provide
their own laptops and media equipment, and they got to set-up
at workstations provided by the Army unit.
The exercise scenario required the six students, representing
the six different news organization, to gather breaking news
information, write a story and follow-ups, turn it in to
their editors (Windrow and Vorsino), and see which news organization
could get the story to the public first.
The name of the game is who can get the late breaking news
story out to the public first, and get paid the big bucks,” said
Kalamalama photo editor Susie Lin, who represented Fox News,
said, “I thought we would be covering the military
doing their daily training, something outdoors. It really
wasn’t until I received a copy of the briefing that
I realized it was more of a press conference exercise where
we would act as reporters covering breaking news.”
Students had three ways to gather their information for their
story. Through a media query desk, where the students were
only allowed to ask questions on paper and waited for their
questions to be answered; press briefings, and press releases.
This exercise gave me an idea of what to expect from a press
conference, and what it was like to be waiting for news to
break,” said Lin. “Each reporter was waiting
for new information so they could be the first to break the
news for their news agency,” she added.
The students also participated in a press briefing by Master
Sergeant Charles Owens, 305th MPAD, in charge of the media
program, who played the role of Lt. Col. Owens, military
personnel spokesperson for the scenario. The students were
able to ask only five questions, and then had to return to
their workstations and add the new information to their stories.
HPU journalism major, senior Barbara Payomo, said: “The
press briefing session was a bit nerve wracking. You see
it on television news all the time, but to participate in
an actual press briefing, and be the reporter to ask the
questions, was challenging and exciting!”
Junior Sara Mattison, a visual communication/journalism major,
was a bit skeptical about attending the exercise. “When
my teacher Mary Vorsino said ‘come, it’ll be
fun,’ I didn’t believe her, and asked how much
fun could it be working with the military? But when I got
here and they explained everything that we were going to
do, this was like, awesome, and illustrates everything that
journalists are supposed to do.
I think [HPU] should make this a requirement because the
hands-on experience is good to have besides just learning
from the book,” Mattison added. “I recommend
every journalism student get this experience, because you
gain more experience in a live exercise than you would get
in an hour of class time.”
Solomon, a communication major, also from Vorsino’s class, was reluctant
to attend the exercise because she’s not journalism major. However, she
represented The Honolulu Star Bulletin, and admits that “It was a great
learning experience in communication. It allowed me some insight as to how journalists
operate when trying to develop a story,” Solomon said. “I came away
with a better appreciation for what journalists do at briefings, and how nerve
wrecking it is when news breaks suddenly happen. “I’d recommend all
students attend this event,” she added
Staff Sergeant Oliver said his unit is looking to make this joint training exercise
more often, to better the 305th Press Camp Headquarters and give an opportunity
to journalism students to train with the military.
Top: (Left to Right) SGT Porter, PFC Regina,
and MSG Owens prepare the answers to questions from students
in preparation for the press conference.
Top: HPU journalism instructors
John Windrow and Mary Vorsino were acting editors for the
Photos by Susie Lin