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Media CEO Takes Offence at Reporter's Question & Achieves Notoriety

A large national media company was holding a press conference with reporters.
The chairman and CEO were representing the company to answer questions on a recent structuring.

In the middle of the press conference, the CEO took offence at a reporter's questions.
He explicitly said he took offence and used the relatively obscure term umbrage.

Reporter's Question

CEO's Reply

Reporter: Just now you mentioned that the revenue from CLG (Company Limited by Guarantee) will not be channelled into the new constitution of the company with new goals right?, SO what might these be? Does it mean that the media business will not pivot to emphasise toward editorial integrity ahead of advertisers interests?

CEO: I honestly take umbrage at your first question (taking it personally and sounding defensive), there are reporters from here who receive substantial funding from various sources and I don't believe that you would describe yourself as bowing to the needs of advertisers in doing your job. (passive aggressive attitude at the reporters in the press conference)

So I think that please, ok, I would say, at least for SPH publication that we have always have advertising and we have never conceded to the needs of the advertisers, so we have always continued to provide fair reliable and credible reporting. (thread-expanding and sounding defensive)

In reporting the answer to this, I would tell you first the question, the fact that you dare to question the SPH title for, In your words (points his finger at the reporter) ah conceding to the needs of advertiser, I take umbrage at the comment, because I don't believe, that even where you come from, you concede, alright in doing your job you do not concede to the needs of advertiser, so I must call this out chairman is a gentlemen, I am not. (implying that you use coercive force and do not have the respect as the leader of the company; indirectly insulting the chairman because the chairman has a huge say in who runs the company as CEO)

SPH, the purpose of doing this is to make sure SPH Media will continue to do the job it has done so well for so long. (Raises his voice and sounds aggressive)

With this reply from the CEO, umbrage became the number one searched term on Google in the country for a while.
The CEO became the subject of memes, and shops started producing merchandise with the word umbrage on it.

The CEO represents a publicly listed company.
His response in a public press conference suggests an air of superiority and that he is above the scrutiny of the public.
Additionally, he sounds defensive and seems like he is covering something up.

Lastly, isn't it ironic that the CEO of a media company cannot handle a reporter's question with ease?
Additionally, the question was relatively fair, and the reporter sounded polite.

The Reporter's Phrasing

The CEO's response was far from ideal.
Nevertheless, the reporter could have phrased the question in a less accusatory tone:

Reporter: Given the revenue will not be directed into the new constitution of the company, how can the company balance between editorial integrity and advertiser interests? (an open-ended question would sound more neutral)

How Should the CEO Have Responded?

The CEO should have disputed the frame that editorial integrity and advertiser interests have to be at odds with each other.

Reporter: Just now you mentioned that the revenue from CLG (Company Limited by Guarantee) will not be channelled into the new constitution of the company with new goals right?, SO what might these be? Does it mean that the media business will not pivot to emphasise toward editorial integrity ahead of advertisers interests?

CEO: We pride ourselves in presenting objective and accurate facts in all of our reportings.
Advertising is our key revenue stream and hence we do need to account for our advertisers' interests.
(state that both matters are important)

We maintain a high standard and quality of journalism through an accurate portrayal of events. (start to set the context that editorial integrity & advertiser interests are not at odds)
And we work with advertising partners that share these same standards and values as us. (pull up your advertising partners & show that you are aligned in values)
I have to thank our journalists and reporters to hold our standards and quality of report to such a high level over the years. (give credit to your employees for their contributions, thank their loyalty and shows a sense of alignment)

Thank you for your question.

I believe that this would have portrayed his leadership and the image of his company in a much better light.
This uses a few core techniques of this website:

  • Power-aligning through collaborative frames,
  • Painting an image of high standards & ethics (it's pulling up so not the typical virtue signalling)
  • Powerful & leaderlike because you confidently represent the interests of your company, employees & advertising partners.
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