“When caught with pants down, blame the press for exposing your underpants”

YESTERDAY, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission advisory board (ACAB) chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang held a press conference at the anti-graft agency headquarters to explain his supposed defence of its embattled chief commissioner, Tan Sri Azam Baki on Jan 5.

The writer would not go into details of what he said as it has been reported by many media outlets. However, there is one issue Abu Zahar raised which needs to be addressed.

The issue is, he blamed the media for allegedly misquoting him in the press meet he held on Jan 5, which he claimed created much confusion and tarnished MACC’s image.

And he refused to entertain any questions from the journalists at the event yesterday, citing that his five-page long press statement would suffice.

It has become a trend and convenient for ministers, civil servants and even corporate leaders to blame media personnel every time their own statements come back to bite them in their rears.

So, what Abu Zahar did was nothing unique; he just learnt the same trick from his superiors.When suffering from “foot-in-mouth disease”, finger the press!

The writer would like to say a few things to Abu Zahar when it comes to dealing with the press. Basically, what the writer is about to say is supposed to be done by his public relations (PR) team but perhaps the latter is too busy doing other things.

When dealing with journalists, especially during a press conference, it is best for one to keep things straight to the point instead of beating around the bush.

Media personnel, by training, takes the “juicy” part of the statement and carry it as the lead for their respective stories. Now, what “juicy” entails can be subjective depending on how a particular media outlet veers itself.

To put in layman’s terms so that Abu Zahar and his ilk can understand better; let us say that you call the press to inform that a buffalo has entered your house. That is news to us.

But if the buffalo puts on your sarong and starts dancing like Shakira; that is breaking news to us! We will lead with that and you should not complain about why we did not highlight the part on the buffalo entering your house.

Back to the press conference on Jan 5, the media wanted to know what ACAB was planning to do on the allegations levelled against Azam and what was the board’s stand. Simple as that!

But instead of being straight to the point, Abu Zahar gave the media a 13-page press statement to digest. Obviously, the media will pick what they think is the “juiciest” part.

Taking the media for granted

Look, Abu Zahar. When dealing with the press, it’s best for one to deliver the message short and as straightforward as possible. If it is not too much to ask, attach the truth into it!

Speaking for myself, the writer curses anyone who give press statements more than five pages long. To a senior like me, it only means two things: either you’re trying to impress us with your flair in language (which it does not) or you just want to babble on without getting straight to the point.

And that is where the person issuing the press statement is inviting trouble. While the veterans may be able to detect what one is trying to say, the less savvy may not be able to do it, leaving things open to misinterpretation.

Now do you understand why your message did not get through on Jan 5, Abu Zahar?

As for yesterday’s press conference, let the writer tell Abu Zahar another thing, which again should have been told to him by his PR team.

If you do not wish to entertain questions from journalists, you could perhaps do us all a favour by just emailing the press statement to us. Additionally, you could have asked your PR team to post the statement on your social media platforms for the media outlets to pick up.

Journalists attended the press event yesterday not only to listen to what you have to say but also ask critical questions pertaining to the issue at hand; either drafted using their own research or told so by their editors.

And what you did yesterday was not only wasting the time and energy of the media personnel but also risk their safety, given the COVID-19 situation.

We, the media, will not be taken for granted or get blamed for your mistakes. – Jan 12, 2022.

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