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Ng Yat Chung, Taking umbrage at umbrage: what some netizens have to say

Taking umbrage at umbrage: what some netizens have to say

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“Umbrage” is the word on social media in recent days. It’s a noun that means ‘offence’ or ‘annoyance’. To take is to take offence.

Many, it seems, are taking at CEO of Ng Yat Chung for taking umbrage at a reporter’s question. Most, it seems, are simply taking umbrage at the word ‘umbrage’. The word generated so much buzz that most people have little idea what the reporter’s question was.

The question the reporter from CNA asked was: Does this mean that with the new business, is going to pivot to editorial integrity instead of prioritising advertisers’ needs?

Bertha Henson: It’s a terrible question and pretty insulting to insinuate that journalists were pandering to advertisers and not maintaining their integrity.

Here’s what former journalist from SPH, Bertha Henson wrote on Facebook (you can read it here):

I see all that at the umbrage that CEO displayed and I think we’d better get a grip on ourselves. We should also look at the question which got him all het up.

It was: Does this mean that with the new business, is going to pivot to editorial integrity instead of prioritising advertisers’ needs?

It’s a terrible question and pretty insulting to insinuate that SPH journalists were pandering to advertisers and not maintaining their integrity. That’s the assumption embedded in the question. This is from a major competitor media as well.

This is not the way to start a discusson on editorial integrity, whether independence from advertisers or the G. As I said in my blog, no journalist can say they haven’t given in to pressure despite their best efforts to fight back. The question asked, however, really takes the cake. Pivot?? Hopefully, the journalist didn’t mean what she asked.

Of course Ng could have answered the question better. That he lost his cool instead of staying cool shows how inexperienced he is at handling questions. But his general intention to protect his staff is a good one.

I don’t understand the vitriol poured on him that has gone beyond professional/business to the extremely personal. It’s like it’s fashionable to whack someone who is ‘up there’ and drawing good money, and defend the supposed ‘victim’.

I am all for defending journalists and their right to ask questions. In this case, it’s the SPH journalists who needed defending rather than the sole CNA one.

Mun Loon: Everyone likes a boss who will stand up for you, even if it was unpopular to do so; and not throw you under to score the brownie point just because it was convenient to save some of his own skin.

Here’s what Mun Loon wrote on Facebook (you can read it here):

I thought SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung did the right thing by standing up for his organisation in the face of some unqualified and pretty baseless insinuations on the professionalism of his newsroom staff.

Everyone likes a boss who will stand up for you, even if it was unpopular to do so; and not throw you under to score the brownie point just because it was convenient to save some of his own skin.

I mean, he could have let lying dogs lie.. after all, the sentiments of it being a government newsletter whatever shape and form it took wouldn’t even after the outburst.

He’s not a retired politician; he doesn’t care about the audience.

He’s a retired General, he knows who is under his charge, and leads them.

He doesn’t care if you think he’s an auctioneer, or ungentlemanly.

Stanley Chua: Ng Yat Chung was a former chief of the military. In the press conference, someone cast aspersions on the integrity of all SPH journalists. As the chief, he had to defend his army of journalists. So he did what any decent commander would do – put himself on the line and stood up to the attacker.

Here’s what Stanley Chua wrote on Facebook (you can read it here):

Military regulars are loyal to each other – sometimes to a fault. Others use words like and camaraderie as catchphrases; military regulars follow them like a code. It is how life has to be, in a profession that requires you to work together, suffer together, and possibly die together.

And it is not only the soldiers who are loyal to their commander; the commander has to be loyal to his soldiers, too. When you put your life in the hands of your commander, the loyalty must go both ways. When someone attacks you, you want your commander to defend you, even if it means putting his own life on the line.

Ng Yat Chung was a former chief of the military. In the press conference, someone cast aspersions on the integrity of all SPH journalists. As the chief, he had to defend his army of journalists. So he did what any decent commander would do – put himself on the line and stood up to the attacker.

Yes, he should have made his point with more finesse. He could have delivered his answer without the angst. But that is what you get with a commander who wears his heart on his sleeve. He knows none of the hypocrisy that many commentators are now showing; he doesn’t know how to play to the gallery the way that many CEOs do. He only knows that for some time now, many people have been taking a piss at his staff. So his instincts got the better of him: in that moment, the only thing that mattered was to repeal the attack and defend the integrity of his staff.

We despise bosses who throw us under the bus. We expect them to look after our interests. We call that “leadership”. If I were an SPH journalist, I would be privately heartened that my CEO has taken the hit to speak up for me. This is how he would have earned my loyalty.

Indeed, everyone likes a boss who will stand up for them, taking umbrage, and not throw them under the bus to protect himself.

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