A PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY OF PASSION WITH BERNAMA
Many renowned individuals began their career at the national news agency
AGRADUATE from a local university reported for duty at a media organisation in 1972, full of confidence and sounding a little cocky. He walked in holding a briefcase and spoke to one of the staff seated near the entrance.
“I’m reporting for duty today. Can one of you show me to my room? I have some calls to make,” YLP said as he was eager to start work as a cadet journalist at the national news agency, Bernama.
A senior editor walked up to YLP and gestured to the latter to follow him. He was taken across the floor and through a corridor. At the end of the corridor, he was taken to a door.
Opening the door, YLP yelled: “This is the toilet!”
That was YLP’s introduction to Bernama. He stayed on as a journalist for several years.
Bernama did not have a building back then. It rented several floors at Wisma Belia in Jalan Syed Putra (Jalan Lornie then).
Started in 1968, Bernama was gaining a reputation. It was impartial, accurate, fast and reliable. It had to do a lot of news marketing, meaning it had to explain to news sources that Bernama does not have newspapers but the news does get disseminated.
News sources were surprised to find their news appearing in several newspapers and announced on the radio.
Being new, Bernama employees were close-knit. There was camaraderie and everyone looked out for each other.
They formed a recreation club to foster the spirit of togetherness.
In today’s parlance, Bernama was a start-up, formed under a Parliament act, which turned it into a statutory body. Salaries and employment terms were similar to government agencies but employees later formed a trade union to fight for better wages and benefits.
Bernama was seen as a “leveller.” Employees came in with all sorts of qualifications and experiences. But once inside Bernama, you leave your academic qualifications outside the door and you start on a new learning curve altogether.
Let’s hear what its chairman, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, has to say.
“Bernama was like a university to journalists in the days when schools of mass communications were unheard of.
“And I can’t think of a better place to learn the trade because over here, journalists have to be bilingual (English and Malay).
“Career-wise, especially for those with a passion for journalism, Bernama gives them the satisfaction because one gets to see his or her news in more than one newspaper, besides appearing on radio and television.
“Bernama was a stepping stone for many of its good journalists.
“This was not by design but due to the natural supply and demand situation in the job market.
“Some journalists became press secretaries to ministers, while others were drawn to the private sector where they gained more exposure and better salaries and perks.
“There were those who joined academia and became lecturers and rose through the ranks to become professors and deans.
“If I recall correctly, one Bernama journalist became press secretary and later, a cabinet minister several years ago.
“At least one Bernama employee has moved into politics and ended up becoming a deputy minister. Bernama has spread its wings far and wide.”
Its editor-in-chief, Datuk Zakaria Wahab, said: “We have international correspondents in various parts of Southeast Asia, India, Europe and the United States.
“While they provide our coverage an international dimension, we have close cooperation with news agencies around the world. This is where we exchange news, photographs and videos of common interest.
“Bernama is also an active member of the Organisation of Asia-Pacific News Agencies, the International Islamic News Agencies and the Non-Aligned Movement News Network.”
In other words, Bernama has widened its network and news emanating from its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur is distributed on multiple platforms and in various languages such as Mandarin, Tamil, Arabic, Spanish and Nepalese.
I was recruited in October 1972 and served Bernama’s newlyformed Economic Service Desk for six years.
I recall vividly my interview held on the first floor of the Bernama office in Wisma Belia.
The interviewer was the late Datuk Mohamed Sopiee Ibrahim, its second general manager. After asking numerous questions about Malaysia and world affairs, he handed me the jawi newspaper, Utusan Melayu.
“Read this,” he said.
I realised then that Bernama was looking for individuals with all kinds of skills and abilities. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Fortunately, I could read jawi.
He asked me to read several news items, including from the sports pages. I was asked whether I could speak and read Chinese and Tamil, to which I replied I could only curse in both languages .
One week later, I was offered the job as a cadet journalist, a high point in my life then as my ambition was realised.
I have yet to meet an ex-employee of Bernama who has a negative word about the organisation.
All the best, Bernama! May you continue to be a professional and credible news organisation, befitting your reputation as a news organisation that dared to be different and spread the news as it is.
Bernama was seen as a ‘leveller’. Employees came in with all sorts of qualifications and experiences. But once inside Bernama, you leave your academic qualifications outside the door and you start on a new learning curve altogether.
Former Bernama journalists, including New Straits Times Press chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Jalil Hamid (second row, fourth from right), at the national news agency’s 50th anniversary in Kuala Lumpur recently.