I was told that a Press Secretary to a Cabinet Minister has resigned last week. I suppose there were problems between him and the 'junior' minister. When asked about it via a text message, the only reply I got was, "dunno la bro, its hard to say".
Almost all press secretaries are chosen from among senior journalists in the mainstream media, except for one or two officials from Jabatan Penerangan or even from other private organisations. Journalists usually make good press-sec as compared with those from other sectors.
I know many of them ever since I started my carrier as a cadet reporter back in 1981. Most of them were good, a few made it big while one or two had to turn back to their former employers. A few had died, too.
To me, press secretaries are important people. In many countries, a press-sec holds the key to a President's or a Prime Minister's success in politics and also in introducing certain policies to the constituents. And in many countries too, a press-sec is above any political-secretary (some governments dont even employ political secretaries).
A press-sec does almost everything. Apart from ensuring that his boss gets sufficient media coverage, he also has to strategise his boss' political position. Without a good and proper publicity, his boss may deemed as a 'dead politician'.
Those who found entries to the Prime Minister office are considered the 'very lucky' ones. They are the envious of many other press-secretaries. As far as I can remember, only a few ministers had shown appreciation for their press-secs, travelling together with them in the same official cars and making full use of their professionalism.
One Prime Minister had never left his office without having his press-sec to sit next to him in the car to ensure that both would be able to discuss matters of any function they were about to attend. That's how a press-sec was deeply appreciated.
US President Barack Obama makes it compulsory for his press-sec Robert Gibbs to be with him most of the time and to join him in the same vehicle that takes him wherever he goes. Former Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew also did the same for his press-sec Yeong Yoon Ying.
However, in the recent years, most ministers would hire a press-sec for the sake of having one. They would not have them in the same car or helicopter. This bosses also like to compare them with others and belittle them in public, treating them like strangers. Some even dont have that level of trust for their own press-secs.
Most ministers nowadays would attend a 'far-away function' which requires them to take a flight, i.e to Kota Bharu, only to be accompanied by their bodyguards and special assistants. His press-sec would be left to drive all the way up, and by the time he arrives, he would already be overcome by fatigue.
I must admit that there are few press-secretaries who fail to function well enough but the bosses didnt make any effort to replace them. However, we must also admit the fact that not all ministers have the brain to hold such portfolios. Some are appointed just to fill up the race quota.
Of course, any press-sec is appointed on a contractual basis but so are a political-sec and a senior private-sec (SUSK). A press-sec does more work than any pol-sec and SUSK but the gap in salary doesnt commensurate with such loads. I know a few journalists who once received a monthly salary of between RM6,000 and RM8,000 had to settle for an offer of RM5,000 or less as a press-sec. A press-sec to the PM or DPM should get higher pay.
There are ministers who place high expectations for his press-sec when they themselves are the dumber. Most of them dont have any knowledge in dealing with the Press but still refuse to take advise from their press-secs.
As for this friend of mine who just resigned (was he asked to?), your boss may have thought that you are somebody like Dana Perino or Tony Snow who used to serve former US Presidents, but he himself is not fit for the portfolio!