MADISON: Faced with perhaps the biggest scientific discovery of the year from one of its scientists, the University of Wisconsin communications team scrambled to prepare for an onslaught of media requests.
With only six days to work with, the six-person in-house team immediately posted an embargoed release and set up a Web site in anticipation of scientific results from UW researcher James Thomson indicating that stem cells could come from simple skin cells – thus canceling the need for human embryos.
The site provided accessible images of the scientists and cells. The team also quickly assembled b-roll for television, and conducted a teleconference the morning of the announcement, said Terry Devitt, director of research communications.
News outlets most familiar with the subject area began calling on November 16. On November 20, the journal Science ran the story.
Access to Thomson was extremely limited, and Devitt said organizations like the Washington Post and National Public Radio were among the first to contact him. Devitt also convinced Thomson to conduct a single television interview with CBS, on the condition that it made footage available to a pool.