All in a day's work for journalists reporting on missing MH370

The media at work covering Malaysian famillies of missing MAS flight at Everly hotel in Putrajaya.

IT IS Day 11 of MH370’s disappearance. People the world over and family members of the 239 passengers on board the flight are praying for new information to shed light on the mystery.

While governments and intelligence agencies are racing to unravel the puzzle, Armed Forces personnel are continuing with their search and rescue efforts.

Another group of people who has been very busy since the plane’s disappearance is the journalists, some of whom have been working round the clock to bring the latest news to the public.

RTM's assistant engineer, Mohammad Adzim Ab Hamid browsing internet during his break after covering missing MAS flight MH370 at Sama Sama Hotel yesterday.AZMAN GHANI / The Star
RTM’s assistant engineer, Mohammad Adzim Ab Hamid, surfing the Internet as he takes a break in a tent outside Sama Sama Hotel.

Many of them are camped out at the hotels, which have been turned into media centres, namely Cyberview Lodge and Everly Putrajaya Hotel, where most of the passengers’ families are housed.

Another hotel, Sama-Sama Hotel — located near the KL International Airport (KLIA) — has become the venue for the daily press conferences by government officials.

More than 300 news personnel — 99 foreign news agencies and 43 local agencies — are covering the story from this hotel.

While the auditorium on the lower ground floor has become the press conference room, the foyer serves as a makeshift media centre and the ballrooms are being used by the airline to serve food to journalists and hold its meetings.

CNN anchor, Jim Clancy covering the missing flight MH370 at Sama Sama Hotel yesterday. AZMAN GHANI / The Star
CNN anchor Jim Clancy doing a live news feed at Sama Sama Hotel.

Media vehicles are parked by the road, satellite dishes have been set up at an open field opposite the hotel and broadcast journalists can be seen conducting live updates and commentary.

The broadcast journalists include well-known faces such as CNN’s Jim Clancy and CCTV’s James Chau.

Some members of the press corp could be seen catching some shuteye in quiet corners, no doubt exhausted from a long day.

Australian journalist Justin Hale was one of the earliest foreign media personnel to arrive in Malaysia.

“I had no sleep at all in the first three days, there was just so much going on,” said the Channel 7 journalist, who has some 12 years’ experience.

James Chau
CCTV’s James Chau is among the well- known journalists currently in town.

He has been staying at the hotel and his daily routine includes waking up early to watch the news on television, having a quick breakfast before walking over to the airport to get copies of all the different newspapers available.

After reading these, he talks to fellow journalists in the media waiting room.

“Sometimes journalists get so pumped up about a story that they forget it’s really about the people.

“I can’t imagine if this had happened to my father, my brother or anyone close to me.

“I admit that when I saw the Wall of Hope in KLIA with messages for the flight passengers, I felt very sad,” said Hale, who had reported on the Bali bombings in Indonesia back in 2002.

“When you are writing a story, you forget about being comfortable. You cannot afford to lose any vital information,” he added.

While there has been criticism from various parties on the way the local authorities have handled the situation, Hale begs to differ.

A foreign broadcast journalist presents the latest updates on MH370,  while another holds up a teleprompter below the camera, at Sama-Sama Hotel near KLIA.
A foreign broadcast journalist doing a live news feed with the aid of a teleprompter in Sama- Sama Hotel.

“I think the Government has managed it well. People often have a perception that the Government is one person who can see everything. It doesn’t work that way,” he said.

Hale said he understood that governments had to be very careful, as announcing something wrong could be disastrous.

The Star journalist Nadirah H. Rodzi, who has been covering the news since the first day, is a new mother who is still nursing her newborn.

She is in by 7am and leaves after 11pm everyday.

A journalist with a local newswire service, who only wanted to be known as Farah, said Cyberview Lodge was providing free Wifi, a conference room and drinking water for journalists.

Broadcast journalist Shadila Abdul Malek, from RTM, said her team was working in shifts to cover the news.

“I live in Subang, so I have to be up by 4am and get here by 6am to start preparations for our live ‘cross feed’ every morning at 7am,” said Shadila, who sometimes only gets home at 11pm.

She has been covering the news since Tuesday, and said it required 100% commitment to the job.

Chinese journalist Yan Hao, who works for Shanghai-based regional daily Oriental Morning Post, has been staying at Cyberview Lodge for the past few days and travels to Sama-Sama Hotel for the press conference daily.

“It had been a hectic week,” he said, adding that some of the other Chinese media would spend time walking around the airport while waiting.

On difficulties he faced reporting the news, Yan said there were language barriers.

“It has been hard for the foreign press during the conferences as sometimes the questions are in Malay,” he said, adding that it would be good if a Chinese translator was provided.

About 140 rooms have been taken up for the families of the passengers and the team attending to them.

On the first few days of the families’ arrival, broadcasting vehicles with satellite dishes were a common sight. However, the live crossovers have slowed down as fewer new developments emerge.

As the days went by, more family members seemed willing to talk to the media, sharing their stories and hopes for their loved ones on board the flight.

Auxiliary police and civil defence members are starting to engage in friendly banter with journalists.

Lunch and refreshments have also been provided for the media over the past few days by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry.

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