Friday, June 24, 2011

The plight of our Press Secretaries

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!

23 comments:

ex-diplomat said...

bro,

d prob with some of our ministers is that, their IQ level is almost zero. their status makes them look like a genius but they know nothing much.

i agree that press-sec is much more important than a pol-sec in many aspects but our govt has set a perimeter by placing press-sec as the lowest inner circle position.

they deserve better treatment but unfortunately this bosses simply find their press-sec are smarter than they are.

the ministers, esp the malays cant just accept any officers who outsmart them.

Anonymous said...

i know which press-sec who resigned last week.

his boss sucks!

masih di BH said...

agaknya SUA ni terlalu tunjuk pandai. kalau bos dia jenis bijak, oklah.

mana ada bos yang suka staf dia lebih pandai daripada dia!

inilah lumrah dan sikap orang kita

Anonymous said...

sir,

in malaysia, a press-sec is treated as a lower class officer to a ministry but in western countries and some asian nations, their position is most important.

this is not the standard set by the ministers but by the administration itself.

kah kah kah said...

aku kenal sorang press-sec yang tak boleh diharap ni, yang keje dengan menteri penerangan. lagaknya boleh harap tapi mutu keje macam hampeh. orang macam ni patut disuruh berenti je...!

tapi bos dia suka orang macam ni, yang bangang dan tak tau tunjuk pandai. jadi sebab itulah dia selamat!

east life said...

i think he got problem with nongchik bro.

but nongchik also is not a performing minister!

Anonymous said...

they are the donkey of politics, bro.

but they are being mistreated for one reason - trying to be smart.

our culture sucks - bosses dont like to be advised!

nasi dan kicap said...

ada gak dua tiga bekas press-sec PM yang berjaya bro, yang jadi chairman utusan, pengarah sana dan pengarah sini.

setakat yang aku tau, ramai press-sec yang disepak macam tu je bila khidmat mereka tamat atau berlaku sesuatu hal di sepanjang menjalankan bidang tugas mereka.

ada menteri yang rasa press-sec mereka tak perform, sebab itulah disuruh berhenti. tapi macam kau kata, memang ada menteri yang perangai dia mengalahkan cendekiawan, seolah-olah dah pandai dan tak mahu nasihat press-sec.

ini budaya tidak sihat. tanpa press-sec, menteri takkan dapat bergerak jauh dalam kariernya

Anonymous said...

kecuali SUA kepada PM, SUA lain semuanya dibuat macam hampeh.

aku tau la sebab aku pun pernah kerja dengan seorang menteri cabuk!

bulan sabit said...

azmi akop disuruh berhenti sebab dia lebih pandai daripada menteri... ha ha ha ha ha!

tentu ada sebab kenapa dia resign bro.

Anonymous said...

comparing it with obama is too much la bro. but on second thot, we want to be a developed nation, and why not emulate what the developed nations' leader do in elevating the status of their press-sec?

sumbi emas said...

bukan press-sec jai, tapi depressed-sec!

kerja macam kaldai, gaji kecik, bos pulak macam terer sangat... ni semua mentaliti melayu!

kubota said...

tun mahathir is among world leaders who gave his press-sec a better position,recognising their importance and significant contribution.

i dont know about datuk najib but i believe he cares for his own press-sec but not others who serve other ministers.

bananarama said...

kat malaysia ni, banyak jawatan yang penting direndahkan, yang tak penting ditinggikan. takda usaha dibuat untuk menyediakan satu susun atur jawatan, termasuklah jawatan kontrak.

inilah masalahnya yang menyebabkan kakitangan kanan seperti setiausaha akhbar sering dijadikan mangsa keadaan.

tanpa SUA ni, siapalah menteri! mereka patut sedar akan hakikat ini

pisang keling said...

jai,

ada menteri yang tau ambil SUA tapi tak pernah pun gunakan khidmatnya. kau agak2 menteri mana?

aku malas nak komen banyak2 tapi kalau akulah menteri, aku akan jaga SUA aku dengan baik sepertimana dia jaga aku.

buat apa ada SUA kalau kita sendiri tak percayakan mereka!

robert chang said...

some ministers are kings in their own portfolio bro. the look down at his staff and dont look after their welfare.

compared with other countries, our press secretaries are still regarded as 'support personnel', not more than that. whenever their service is needed, the bosses will turn to them. otherwise, they are just like stray cats.

even in thailand and some asian nations, press secretaries have larger role and in some cases, quite powerful.

or could it be this 'power' that prompted our ministers and our system from giving them a better place in the administration?

what do do think?

biol said...

betul ke ada gaji setiausaha akhbar ni cuma rm3,500 je?

elok ikut aku je, kutip tin kosong dan jual!

jangan pandang bawah said...

kena tengok jugak bro. ada press-sec yang perform, ada yang jenis pemalas.

tapi bukan semua menteri tahu apa bidang kuasa press-sec.

orang lain punya salah pun, press-sec yang kena balun!

adil ke?

Botak said...

Salam Brother Jai

Semuanya 2 X 5 lah...sama ajaaaa...

Anonymous said...

tapi ada juga press sec yg lagak vip... bila boss dia berucap di majlis2 dia bukan nak bual2 dgn org kampung atau media, dia duduk bangku depan pentas sama dgn vip2 lain... ini jenis apa pulak...?

Wake UP! said...

press secretary ni semuanya hampeh. berlagak konon dialah pandai sebenarnya tak pun.

Anonymous said...

bro

kalau bini menteri pun nak jadi menteri, susahlah. kalau bini raja nong cik pun bercakap lebih dari laki dia kat mesy umno, susahlah org bahagian nak respect. baik bagi bini dia saja bertanding election nanti.

Anonymous said...

Bukan semua Press Sec adalah orang yang pandai, di antara mereka yang pandai hanyalah minoriti.

tapi minoriti yang pandai tidak semestinya nasib baik dapat kerja dengan Menteri yang bijak. ada yang terpelanting kerana Menteri bodoh sombong, ego tinggi, hidung tinggi, senyum lebih daripada orang tetapi selalu jadikan Press Sec mangsa permainan politik antara Menteri dengan media.

Nasib...