While gearing up to be slack for the holidays, Unspun, unfortunately, had to translate an article in Kompas for a client. The article was written by a senior journalist and was about how the current financial turmoil meant that clients can no longer automatically trust well-established brands in the financial sector.
It is a fair enough thesis but in translating it Unspun was reminded once again of his perception that there is something very troubling about the state of journalism in Indonesia. Here was a “think piece” by a senior journalist of the country’s premier newspaper and it was full of flaws in logic, endless sentences in passive voice and incorrect “facts”
A case in point was this paragraph from the story:
It is not only customers that have suffered but Germany has blamed the US for causing the global financial crisis. America allowed greed to thrive by allowing companies to make large profits without controls in the financial market. This allowed the practice of cheating to arise.
Cheating? There is a lot of greed and poor corporate governance behind the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other US financial institutions, but cheating? Unless the writer is living in a parallel universe from Unspun there is no mention of cheating being the cause of this financial turmoil.
At first Unspun thought that it was because of his imprecise grip of the Indonesian language but checking with other Indonesians verified that it was the Indonesian copy. The troubing thing was that this was not the first or even fifth time that Unspun‘s encountered this problem with the local reports. It would seem that most of the local copy contain such flaws.
Which leads ones to wonder:
1. How did such copy get through the copy editors and editors? Several possibilities suggest themselves. The first is that nobody int he paper give a damn about quality information and writing. The second is that the writer is of such standing that nobody dares to mess around with his copy, even though they see huge gaps in it. The third, and more troubling, possibility is that nobody sees anything wrong with the article. Which is the answer? Unspun does not know.
2. What does this do to/say about the Indonesian consumer of such news? Most Indonesian I speak with do not seem to be particularly bothered about bad reporting. When Unspun, in a fit of frustration, discussed the quality of news reports with them and pointed out the flaws they just shrugged it off with “but they always write like this”. Which is really scary. There is a saying that people deserve the politicians they get. What did the Indonesians do to deserve such media? What are the long term effects of a people being subjected to constant exposure to such bad reporting?