Sunday, November 22, 2009
The prima donna sportswriters
There are a handful of sportswriters who are a pampered lot.
I was the media officer at the 45th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup at the Melaka International Bowling Centre (MIBC) last week, and was taken to task by two national media for being different to them during the championship.
While I am prepared to be taken to task if I was inefficient and did not carry out my duties as expected, I will not stand reporters who get personal and take a dig at me for the kicks.
I have covered four Bowling World Cups overseas and let me assure you that the media facilities were minimum and we had to make do with whatever the host could provide.
Agreed that media facilities should be No 1 priority on the list for any organiser of an event.
But sometimes because of space constraints and technical demands of certain games, there is a possibility that the media will not get a hall for their media room!
I was at MIBC two months before the championship and told the organisers that a huge room will be required as the foreign media for bowling is fairly big and together with the local press (print and electronics), we get a fairly large crowd.
I was shown a room which was definitely big enough.
But at the eleventh hour because of live television coverage for the semifinals and final besides the daily coverage, the electronic media required a television room where they had to set up lights and camera.
Thus, the room initially which was suppose to be the media room was converted into a television cum press conference room. The room was also shared by QubicaAMF tournament personnel.
The media room was then a room overlooking the lanes in the bowling centre which could cater for about 20.
There were about 12 foreign media including the Media Officer from QubicaAMF who all arrived a day before the unofficial practice began on Nov 13 and took up their places.
There was still room for eight more local personnel and I was told that many of the print media were sending their local (Melaka) based reporters and photographers for the event and that they were returning to their offices to file their stories.
None of the local media had applied for the media accreditation which was sent out to all through the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) more than a month before the competition and had failed to meet the deadline to submit their completed forms. This failed to give any indications as to how many local media we were expecting.
Even phone calls to the local media failed to get a confirmation on their intend to cover the event.
Nevertheless, I had ample passes ready for any local press who wanted to cover the event and also space for working area on stand-by.
Both the reporters who had taken me to task also did not apply for the media passes.
I had been at the venue one week before the championship began and sent back press releases to all media on the updates of the tournament.
Both the said reporters only arrived in Melaka on Monday afternoon - when the tournament was well underway - and I duly got them registered and gave them the passes.
Immediately, the reporter from the English national daily said that the media room was cramped up despite having a seat to work.
He suggested that I put some tables just outside the media room so that there is more space.
I immediately told him that I will definitely accommodate his request, but he should not later accuse me of placing him outside the media room. He said he had no issues and I immediately made arrangements to have two long tables with seats for about ten and had extension sockets all laid for their computers. I marked the area for Malaysian Media Use Only.
But the next morning, the said reporter was still working inside the media room and when asked him why he was not using the tables, he simply replied: "There is no security outside. I cannot leave my laptops out there."
There were already other local media using this area outside the media room.
I told him either I can station a guard there to take care of his things or he could leave his belongings in the Media Room and only use the table outside to type his story.
The entire MIBC had WiFi and the issue of cable lines outside the Media Room did not arise. They could send their stories from anywhere in the building, including the Kopitiam restaurant.
In contrast The Star reporter, Shamsul Fitri from Kuala Lumpur and cameraman, A. Malek Yahaya and a few Melaka based media men had arrived early and had no problems working from the Media Room. And they, together with the foreign media would arrive well before the first ball is thrown for the day, unlike some who came late afternoon to begin their work.
With the exception of Malek, many of the other local based cameramen were not familiar with photography for bowling championships and had complained that they were not allowed to take shots from the passage at the end of the lanes to take frontal shots of bowlers.
In bowling, the only time photographers are seated in front of the bowlers and on the unused lanes, is for the semifinals and final where they are seated at the end of the lane, they cannot move until the game is over.
Bowlers are easily distracted when they see movements in front of them and it is for this reason that photographers are not allowed to take shots while they are bowling.
But during the unofficial and official practice session, photographers are allowed to take frontal photos and these are the photos which are normally used during the championship,
However, photographers are allowed to take photos from anywhere behind the bowlers but they are only not allowed to use flashes.
We made an exception for the photographers this time around, when I spoke with the tournament director, Bernard Gibbons, to request if it was alright for me to remove eight inches of tint from the glass overlooking the lanes from inside the Corporate office of MIBC - which was almost at the end of the lanes - so that the photographers can take photos from inside.
Bernard after checking out the request gave the greenlight and tint was duly removed.
The organisers even had provided breakfast, lunch, tea-break and dinner for all Media personnel.
Having accommodated both print and electronic media to the best, I was indeed surprised when the two reporters still took me to task on Wednesday with the tournament well underway.
This was when the organisers decided to move out the MIBC corporate office and give the two reporters a work-station with their names printed and placed on the desk!
We also converted the corporate office solely for Malaysian press. While many of the local media still continued to work in the official Media Room, this corporate office was used by the two reporters and members of the television station.
I have spent 27 years being a sports journalist and have covered both local and international events. Yes, we have expressed dissatisfaction over media facilities, but that was when there no area provided or no telephone lines.
We have filled in stories from coffee-shops or any little space we had. Our priority was to file the stories no matter what discomfort or hardship we had to go through. We did not except luxury or VIP treatment. At worst, when we did not have areas to file our stories, we would return to our hotels and file them.
Back then, we did not have the luxury of laptops. We used to send stories through teleprinters and had to type our own ribbon. When computers were first introduced, we had to use phone lines to send stories and carried the cumbersome phone cupping for the phone to be placed and send out stories.
Today's age of WiFi is a luxury.
I just wonder if these two reporters were sent to cover a war or flood, would they were still be asking for a work-station with reclining chairs in an air-conditioned room?
Again I stress that times have changed and media facilities are priorities of any organiser.
But sometimes, a little understanding from the media will certainly be greatly appreciated, especially when media officers are trying their level best to address any shortcomings.
To take a dig at them in the media despite their effort, is indeed uncalled for and childish.
There is always an avenue to address problems by taking to media officer or the organisers, and if that is exhausted, the media has every right to take anyone to task. But not when one is trying his level best to address the situation.
Maybe the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM) should educate their members and their limits to their demands. The problem is not every sportswriter is member of SAM. One of the reporters who had thrown a fuss of the Media Centre in MIBC is not a member.
Lastly, there are many media officers doing freelance and event and media management companies being hired to handle the media. If reporters take them to task at their whims and fancy without any solid rhyme or reason, it is going to jeopardise their livelihood.
Is this fair? These pampered reporters indeed need to be more sensitive or is it too much to ask?