One Press Conference Too Many

I may not have been in the media business for long but eight years have enabled me to separate the wheat from the chaff. We started Ipoh Echo in 2005 and, hitherto, much water has passed under the bridge. Time in its infinite dimension provides one with the wisdom to pick and choose, to decide who is right and who is wrong and, above all, to judge someone’s character whether he is genuine or crooked.

Ipoh Echo is a community newspaper, and at this material moment, it is the only community newspaper in the country – warts and all. It is no idle boast but that is the gospel truth. And having survived many uncertainties for over eight years is something to shout about, although some may want to dispute it. But that is of no consequence here.

The habit of some, especially politicians, is slowly but surely making life a little unpleasant for us in the media business. This habit, for some unknown reason, is beginning to spread and now even those in the private and public sectors are being affected.

It has to do with press conferences. Having a press conference to announce this and that has become fashionable. Not a day passes by without me receiving an invitation to a press conference. The occasion can be as insignificant as an annual dinner or a blood-drive campaign. I even received invitation to a conference for an annual general meeting. And believe me, an extraordinary general meeting of an old boys’ club. How ridiculous is that?

Obviously, many out there do not know the meaning of press or media conference. Call for one by all means, after all we cannot stop someone from doing so. But make sure that reporters’ time is not wasted on some insignificant news which does not merit publication, or worse, earn the wrath of the editors. I have sent my reporters on wild goose chases far too often that now I am beginning to become a little wiser.

There were many instances when we were invited to a media conference on a proposed event which would take place the following day. My question is, why must a conference be arranged when we are privy to the event taking place? Is this not a waste? Reporters’ time is better spent on some other worthy cause other than pleasing the organisers and having a free tea break.

An event is newsworthy if something sensational is about to happen or has happened. A newsworthy event goes beyond mundane fire and casualty evacuation drills and site visits by some Tan Sris. I posed this question to one corporate executive recently, as to whether he would read a news piece on fire drill or visit if he comes across one? He answered in the negative. If he does not read it what makes he thinks others would? Or is the shiok sendiri (feel-good) factor the real reason?

I can quote many anecdotal incidents but will refrain from making references, as I believe they were being made without any malice or ill intent. It is the hype surrounding such events that prompted most, if not all, from following this silly trend! Have a heart for the poor reporters who, not only have to brave inclement weather and insufficient parking space to make an appearance, but to have their reports assigned to the bins instead.

Yes, Ipoh Echo is here for a reason – to be the sounding board for Ipohites’ dissatisfaction with the authorities and a notice board for the posting of upcoming and past events. Like everything else, the paper has its limitations, budget being one. If one’s interest is personal glory, then Ipoh Echo is not the place for him or her.

For a community paper to work, the support of the community, in whatever form, is desirous. And calling for a spurious media conference for an event of no significance or news value is definitely not a wise thing.

Come on! Give us a break.

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