Walking the walk with a home-away-from-home for journalists

We Public Relations professionals often preach to our clients that they should take care of their key stakeholders. We talk the talk but how many of use walk the walk?

Even in this digital age that has seen the rise of social media and the decline of traditional media, the latter is still important, establishing in giving credibility to a story or source.

Journalists remain a, if not still the, key stakeholder to public relations professionals. Yet what do PR peeps do to take care of them? Apart from the birthday greetings, cakes and flowers, the visits and company-paid lunches, what else do they do to engage and make themselves useful to this stakeholder?

Not much. So we at Maverick thought it would be a good idea to set up a Journalists’ Corner in our office, so that these journos will have  somewhere where they can file stories, chill out or hang out.

We think that if more PR agencies and communications firms do this for journalists it would help them do their jobs better. The details of this facility, that we launched last Friday, are in the blog entry below that I wrote for Maverick: 

A room of one’s own for journalists

This is something that we at Maverick have been wanting to do for years. But we had been hampered by lack of space and then one thing or other got in the way.

Finally, after tall these years, we were able to turn an idea into reality yesterday when we launched our own Journalists’ Corner at Maverick’s new office.

What’s the Journalists’ Corner? To us, it is a place we create specially for journalists in the field who may need a place to rest and relax, recharge themselves and their handphones, do some work or chill out among themselves or with consultants over a cup of coffee or a game of Wii.

Continue reading…

Jilbab Hitam and Waiting for Godot

Regular readers of Unspun will know that this blog takes interest in journalistic developments in Indonesia and elsewhere.  The interest comes from Unspun having been a journalist for many years before he “sublimated” into a communications consultant.

Readers will know from the two previous posts that Unspun found the Jilbab Hitam issue fascinating since it involves several prominent names, the allegations of a putative ex-Tempo journalist and of extortion of well-known institutions.

That, however, was where Unspun’s involvement with the case ends. Ditto Maverick, the communications firm where Unspun works at.

It was therefore very surprising last Thursday night when the names of Unspun and Maverick started cropping up on Twitter. The head of a research firm in Indonesia (let’s call him Godot), who is also an occasional newspaper contributor and commentator on anything from politics to economics had insinuated that Maverick was involved with a corporation (let’s call it AA), whose name had been bandied about as the possible instigator behind the Jilbab Hitam posting in Kompasiana.

AA was supposed to be involved, so the rumour mill has it, because they wanted payback for a book claiming to expose questionable practices in the corporation.

Now, sometime during the last week or so a blogger, who had almost the same name as one of our employees (let’s call him RF) , had posted an opinion piece in a Detik.com blog criticising the book. In the posting the blogger had said that he was a student of a lecturer  in University Indonesia who had also earlier posted a critique of the book in Kompasiana.

The detik.com posting sent Godot’s research juices flowing and somehow (presumably through something more sophisticated than a Google search, for he is, after all, a researcher) he came up with the allegation that Maverick and RF were in cahoots with AA to run down the author of the investigative boo. Without further ado Godot started to post Tweets about his suspicions.

As with most things that come up out of  the blue, Maverick’s crisis management training has taught us to seek and verify facts before reacting rashly. So we methodologically called up RF’s personnel files and found out that unlike Godot’s insinuations, RF did not go to school in University Indonesia. We then asked RF if he had known the particular lecturer. Negative. Had RF written any opinion pieces and posted them on any blogs, let alone Detik.com? Negative. Curiouser and curiouser.

We then went on the next stage of fact-finding. Going to source is usually the most reliable means of arriving at the truth. So since Twitter seemed the communications channel of choice for Godot, we asked him a simple question : why did he think that the blogger was the same person as our employee RF, since it was a common name and a Google search came up with dozens of RFs. Why did he think our RF was the RF?

That’s when the Twitter conversation turned weird. Godot dissembled and never answered the question. That didn’t stop him from casting aspersions on us and the PR profession though.

Normally, we would dismiss Godot as a troll and ignore him but because this issue was emotionally charged among a community we are close to – journalists – we thought we needed to resolve the matter conclusively and give it a decent burial. In social media, anything that doesn’t get a decent burial can come back to haunt you.

So we asked Godot for a face-to-face meeting so that he can explain how he came to his conclusions and we can set the record straight. By then the Twitter exchange had attracted the attention of some prominent Twitterati, a few of whom are senior journalists. They felt it was a good idea and encouraged Godot to meet with us to clear the air.

In spite of all this willingness to engage though, Godot has not replied. If he felt that he was right there was no indication that he desired to get to the bottom of things. If he realised that he had been wrong there was no hint of owning up and an apology for wrongfully insinuating that Maverick was in cahoots with AA.

So we are now…. waiting for Godot

(Thanks @julianto_irwan for being our muse with the name)

Jilbab Hitam Unveiled?

It appears that the identity of Jilbab Hitam, the nom de plume of a putative ex-Tempo reporter who caused an uproar  in the Indonesian online and journalism communities when he accused Tempo and its editors of trying to shake down Mandiri in a posting in Kompasiana.com.

That posting has been taken down long ago but in another posting in Kompasiana by Sutomo Paguchi  who describes himself as a citizen journalist in Padang, and advocate, a nonpartisan and who writes for recreational purposes, he claims that Jilbab Hitam has been identified as an ex-Detik.com reporter who had been dismissed for shaking down Karakatau Steel when it had its IPO.

The author also posts a press release, apparently from the writer’s workplace IDEA Group, saying that the writer has admitted to being Jilbab Hitam. They said they were not involved in the authorship of the controversial article and that the writer has left its employment.

All very good. But that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from trying to hunt down what it perceives to be the true motive of Jilbab Hitam. The speculation was that he was paid to do the hatchet job. But by whom?

Nobody is naming any names yet but one or a few will probably crop up soon.







Senior media relations specialist wanted

We at Maverick are looking for a senior media relations specialist.

The job requires the specialist to know the who’s who of the Indonesian media and of the foreign media corps in Jakarta and developments in the media industry. The specialist will act as an internal consultant to Maverick in developing and executing media and engagement strategies on behalf of clients.

The specialist will also oversee the production of Maverick’s monthly newsletter Media Flash (latest copy below), that chronicles the goings on in the media industry.

So job, in short, involves schmoozing but lots of hard work and intelligence in winning the trust and confidence of top journalists, so that when we go to them they know that we have a solid and newsworthy story to tell.

The job is probably most suitable for a journalist working in the local media with 4-5 years experience, who wants a change of scene or who wants to acquire skills in addition to news gathering and writing to put in their resumes. If interested please email us at: recruitment@maverick.co.id.

Mav_Media Flash_3










Appalling malls

Interesting article but isn’t an important question being left out in this article here? What sort of spatial planning does the city have or implements to allow that many malls? If only journalists would ask the right questions, we can hope to have a better city.

Jakarta’s Mall Boom Driven by Foreign Retailers | The Jakarta Globe

Just when you thought Jakarta may sink beneath the combined mass of the city’s 130-plus malls, a further 313,500 square meters of retail space has been announced, with just three large malls contributing 83 percent of the increase.

The largest of them is St. Moritz in West Jakarta with 129,200 square meters, followed by Ciputra World in South Jakarta and Green Bay Mall in West Jakarta, with 78,000 and 52,000 square meters respectively. St. Moritz is being built by Lippo Karawaci, while Agung Podomoro is the developer of Green Bay Mall.

Ferry Salanto, the director of research at Colliers International Indonesia, said that the developers of those three malls have strategies in place to secure tenants for their malls.

“If they hadn’t secured tenants they would not build the malls,” Ferry said last week.

Local developers have their own flagship tenants when opening up new malls, such as Lippo’s deal with Debenhams and Parkson, and Ciputra’s with Lotte.

Artadinata Djangkar, a director at Ciputra Property, which is responsible for Ciputra World, said the entrance of foreign retailers has increased demand for more retailing space in Jakarta.

In the past two years alone, several international retailers have set sail for Indonesia. Besides South Korea’s Lotte, there is Parkson from Malaysia, Japan’s Aeon and Thailand’s Sentral Group.

The presence of these chains creates lucrative business opportunities for local developers. Ciputra World 1 will cost its developer Ciputra $130 million, while Lippo’s St. Moritz mall is a part of the $1.2 billion mixed-use St. Mortiz Penthouses & Residences project.

Setyo Maharso, the chairman of Indonesian Real Estate Association (REI), said that the strong demand for retailing space is tracking a steadily growing property market. “It is because [malls] are the supporting facilities of neighborhoods and cities,” he added.

With strong economic growth and rising purchasing power, Setyo predicted that the property market will grow between 10 percent and 15 percent this year.

Colliers’ Ferry said that property developers still needed to advance their understanding of mall management in order to generate more revenue.

He said that there are two types of mall in operation in Jakarta, the first being “community malls,” whose visitors are mostly people from the surrounding area, and “destination malls,” which hope to attract visitors from distant areas.

Ferry said that mall construction will slow next year, due to the Jakarta government’s ongoing moratorium on mall construction, introduced in 2011.

He added the policy would encourage more malls to be constructed in regions surrounding Jakarta.

Ferry said that the four regions surrounding Jakarta tended to take turns to host new malls.

“This year, there are more new malls in Bekasi [then the other three regions]. We predict that in 2014, there will be more new malls in Tangerang,” Ferry said.


Accountability reporting

Journalists, especially foreign ones are funny creatures. Often you can hear them decry the low level of English being used in their local host countries. Redundancies are one of the biggest sins. Yet when these journalists are forced into roles of responsibility beyond their usual journalistic duties they seem to revert, like all of us into bureaucrat-ese.

So it is with some amusement that Unspun read the agenda for the Annual General Meeting of the august Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club:


1. An accountability report by JFCC President Joe Cochrane.

2. An accountability report by Treasurer Zubaidah NH, which shall include the previous year’s financial accounts.

3. Executive Committee proposals.

4. Member proposals.

5. The election of the new Executive Committee for 2013.

6. Any other business.

Any member who wishes to submit a proposal may do so provided it is submitted at least one week prior to the meeting.

“Any other business” is a discussion forum of ideas not submitted in formal proposals. No vote may be taken on these items.

“Accountability report”? What is a report, theoretically, if not an exercise in accountability? Would not a mere “report” suffice? Would attaching an “accountable” in front of the report help spin things to make them seem more accountable, open and transparent? Or make them seem like they doth protesth too much?
Hmmm. Unspun is probably splitting hairs and being pedantic, but these are foreign journalists who are supposed to be setting a good example for the rest of us in using the International Language (until Chinese replaces it a few years down the line).



The beginning of the end of the Globe?

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?