LAST_UPDATEMon, 23 Jul 2018 8pm

Zaleha Ismail – The Rough And Tough Journalist

zaleha_mainAs the saying goes, ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Freelance journalist Zaleha Khairene Ismail is a true believer in this adage when it comes to journalism. You may recognize Zaleha as she was a regular feature in RTM, Radio 24 and TV9 but there’s more to her than a pretty face and voice. The 35-year old is also a competitive horse rider who recently won second place in a dressage competition against riders who were much more experienced than her. If that’s not hardy enough, she also does scuba diving, wall climbing, bungee jumping AND taekwondo. In other words, you’d better not be messing with this plucky lady…

zaleha5Malaysian Digest: Tell us a bit about horse riding. How did you get into it?

Zaleha Khairene Ismail: It started by chance. I had to do a travelogue three years ago and one of the segments required me to try out horse riding. I fell in love with it and started to take riding lessons once I was back in KL. I bought a horse in September 2010 and then I got more serious into it. I’m a very proud owner of a chestnut thoroughbred horse called Don Avante Aryan.

I started competing in endurance races (40km and 80km). Earlier this year I started venturing into dressage competitions. My horse got a ribbon (second place) which was a great feeling considering we were such newbies competing with a bunch of experienced riders and horses.

MD: People have a perception that the horse riding related sports are for the elite. Is it true?

ZKI: Not necessarily. It depends on how far you plan to venture into it. If you’re planning to compete, then yes, the tab gets a little high. Horses nutrients and supplements, competition fees, training, equipment, transportation… all athletes will face this. But then again, that’s when sponsorship comes in (depending on how good you are).

Nonetheless, as a hobby, it’s more affordable now. Riding lessons don’t cost much nowadays… like once in a week thing. I’ve seen people spend way higher on soccer boots as compared to riding lessons. So yeah, it’s not that pricey.

zaleha4Do you have any other hobbies? What do you do to relax?

I’m a certified open water diver, and I’m also an avid fan of wall climbing. I love bungee jumping. I will be resuming taekwondo lessons next month so I’m really looking forward to that. Aside from that, I play the piano and I love singing. I also love the occasional visits to the spas to relax and pamper myself.

How do you feel about journalism in Malaysia, especially when it comes to ethical practices?

As clichéd as it may sound, great power comes with great responsibility. Journalism IS power, which is why the media practitioners carry a vital role in ensuring that in our mission to convey information, ethics must sit at the top of the list. This comprises journalists of all portfolios – politics, sports, entertainment… everything. Don’t abuse the privilege of shaping the mind of the society because the result affects the mindset that we reach out to.

zaleha6How do you feel about the growing popularity of news portals?

As for news portals, a fast and accurate access to information is just what we need. It’s a necessity now. And I’m glad to see this taking place in Malaysia. In the West, news portal is so big, it can cater to specialized field of interest like news on sports, news on entertainment, news on science and technology… Here in Malaysia, we’re catching up real quick so there is a lot of untapped potential waiting to be discovered.

In your personal opinion, is it easier or harder for women to succeed in Malaysia as compared to the West?

I’d say geographical factor is immaterial in this day and age. We have outstanding women all over the world making their mark and competing with men fair and square. It all boils down to sheer will, hard work and mental strength. Location is secondary.

zaleha3Are you a registered voter?


Who among the public figures in Malaysia is your ultimate favorite?

Always have and will always be Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed. He’s a genius.

How would you rate a woman’s success level, especially Malaysian women?

Success is when one’s contribution not only benefit herself, but also the people around her and, most importantly, being able to do that without compromising ethics and moral values, I’d  say that would be a desirable example to look at.

Tell us about your fashion sense. What do you try to express what you wear?

I don’t limit my wardrobe selection. I have everything from the little black dress to the hoodie and the scruffy jeans. To me, fashion has to make sense. Comfort is also a big factor when it comes to clothes selection. When we’re comfortable, we are at our best. The inner self should not be clouded by the attire. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It has to make sense. Avoid fashion mishaps liketrying too hard, because that’s when you mess things up. Ha ha!

zaleha7What sort of characteristics would you look for in a man?

He’s responsible, reliable, funny, affectionate, patient and generous. He’s consistent throughout the relationship and being with him makes me want to be a better person. He plays awesome guitar too.

What’s the most daring thing that you’ve done so far?

It wasn’t like a choice or anything. It was something that I had to do for work. More of an experience. I was assigned to do a coverage in Acheh after the 2004 tsunami). I was there for a week and every night we experienced aftershocks from the earthquake. We (the crew) slept holding our backpack containing passports and documents so, if the tremors got worse, we might have to evacuate in the middle of the night. I don’t do well with uncertainty.  So yeah, that was one of the most challenging times I’ve ever encountered.

What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had throughout your career/personal life?

Oh wow. Plenty. My early days as a journalist were tough. Made some fumbles on air but was quick enough to recover from them. Just like any other profession, we learn a great deal from our mistakes.

- mD