Unspun was exceptionally skeptical of The Jakarta Globe when rumors began circulating of its imminent launch. At the heart of the skepticism were two questions:
Firstly, whether hard-nosed business like the Riyadis were prepared to keep pumping the huge amounts of investment into the paper before before can turn profitable (experts have speculated that this takes a minimum of five years)?
Secondly, would the Riyadis allow the type of hard hitting and/or incisive journalism that is required if you wanted to grow a viable newspaper?
Unspun’s skepticism then (this and other posts) led many journalists (who are usually the most defensive people when put under the spotlight) to brand Unspun a skeptic and cynic.
Fair comments and it looked for a time like they were right. Against Unspun’s initial predictions The Jakarta Globe actually began to look and read a lot better than its established rival, the grand old dame The Jakarta Post.
For a while there they had the Post on a run, even forcing the Post to redesign itself from a stodgy paper into a merely ugly paper (its new masthead has the looks only a mother could love).
Its stories also seemed more focussed and much better written. The Jakarta Globe also began to win awards, much more than The Jakarta Post, at least until two years ago.
Unspun was forced to eat humble pie, cancelled his subscription to the Post and signed up for The Globe. The Globe, it seemed, was settling into the right orbit.
Probably about three or four months ago, something began to get awry. The choice of news stories began to get wonky. The writing was still better than the Post but the quality was going down.
Then, a month or two ago the Globe sunk to a new low by changing its format from broadsheet to Berliner, a size slightly broader than the usual tabloid. The change in size is a fair move. (ironically, that format was what the original editors had recommended but wasn’t adopted for reasons unclear to Unspun). It saves paper and money and it is also more user friendly.
But along with the change also came a peculiar new sense. There was the front page story of a satellite launch by the Lippo Group (that owns the paper). It was news, but front page?
The front pages also seemed to adopt a magazine approach, splashing a large photo on the page with little teasers here and there. Unspun’s reaction is that if he wanted to read a magazine he would buy one, but he’d expect much more than a daily.
Then of course there is the famous Lady Gaga fiasco where the Jakarta Globe was not content to make a fool of itself editorial (see Did The Jakarta Globe’s editorial go gaga over Lady Gaga?); the next day it went one step further with an even more ludicrous defense of its editorial (see The Jakarta Globe mounts a defensive commentary on its editorial)
Readers may wonder why the Globe seems to be imploding when for a while it was going so well. Insiders claim that the backers were running out of money, hence the downsizing of the paper.
New people were also brought in to helm the paper and these new people didn’t care much about journalism or were patient enough to realize that good journalism can be viable, if you give it time and enough nurturing. They were in for the short term results and to stop the haemorrage.
So all the key people who started the paper and made it something to be reckoned with have been sidelined, ostensibly into other positions to increase the berita Satu offerings – but obviously so that they would no longer call the shots in Editorial at the Globe.
All this is a shame as some good competition would have kept the Jakarta Post on its toes and improved the state of journalism in this country. But there you have it. Given the choice between bread today and bread tomorrow and even the staunchest Christian might succumb to temptation.
Now Unspun has to eat humble pie again and cancel his subscription to the Globe and resubscribe to the Post. What other choice if there for the reader at home in the English language living in Indonesia?