Posted 13 February 2009
Ah the joys of being a
journalist. Arenít we the most sought after people on the
planet? Arenít politicians and CEOs clambering over themselves
just to talk into our mikes and spill their wisdom onto our
Now consider this. Sometime
early in January this year (oh no, not last year - but it could
have been for all the progress I have made so far) I approached
SABMiller. I wanted to find out more about their sustainable
development initiatives. They have put a lot of information out
on the web but that does not mean that all my questions have
Moreover, SABMiller had given
a contact email address. So I contacted them, told them who I
was and why I wanted to speak to them. After all, I was going to
give a paper on sustainable development at the IBD Africa
Section Conference in South Africa in March.
Makes sense, doesnít it?
For several weeks, there was
I then decided to send an
email to their corporate affairs director who sits on
SABMillerís executive committee explaining my grievances to her.
That was on 26 January. Nice lady, a real pro. She wrote back
immediately, saying that she would make sure someone got in
touch with me.
Next day their head of media
relations dropped me a line, asking me again what I wanted to
discuss with their sustainable development team.
I replied by submitting a list
The following day (28 January)
the secretary of the head of sustainable development contacted
me with the info that her boss was available for a telephone
interview. She gave me several dates to chose from. I ticked the
one on 16 February.
On Friday 13 February I was
still waiting for a confirmation whether her boss will keep the
I assume they expect me now to
check my email on an hourly basis to find out when exactly on
Monday 16 February I will have a chance of firing some questions
at their head of sustainable development.
Ok, I am not Reuters or
Bloomberg. Supersonic speed is not what my readers want from
But processing a request for
over four weeks and involving three people Ė call that
Incidentally, SABMillerís head
of sustainable development is going to give a paper at the same
convention. Chances are high that we will bump into each other.
Trouble is he may not be
allowed to talk to me there.
Had I phoned into SABMiller as
suggested, they would have taped our conversation in case I
misquote him. Or in case he says something he is not supposed to
Who am I to complain? Pity
those poor CEOs. Latest I have heard is that corporate lawyers
are discussing whether executives may use keywords or prompts
when giving PowerPoint presentations during board meetings.
Some lawyers actually think
that itís best if CEOs and directors read out pre-written
statements. That way they pre-empt a dispute over whoís exactly
So much for the freedom of