Kurawa, Big Media, and the GoodBener who would be president

A battle royale is raging on Twitter between established online media houses including kompas.com, kumparan.com and professional buzzer @Kurawa and so far there have been threats of legal suits, applying the Draconian UU ITE and others.

The story unfolded on January 5 when Rudy Valinka, aka @kurawa, tweeted an accusation against Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan for media placement carrying the messages that he was GoodBener (rally good, a play on Gubener) to become President. Kurawa said it must have cost a few hundred million rupiahs, an unnecessary expense that could have been used to alleviate the plight of flood victims.

 

 

He then followed up with screen grabs of how several media outlets seem to have similar headlines and quotes.

Here’s one from Kumparan.com

 

 

This one from detik.com

 

And this one from Kompas.com

Then @Kurawa started saying he was disappointed by kompas.com for receiving a media placement from Anies, as he thought that Kompas.com was really objective.

@Kurawa also attacked other media, including Jawa Post. The editor replied to him on Twitter saying that their reporter had not ”complied with proper procedures” when uploading this story and they were therefore removing their story.

Kompas  fought back, saying that their journalist wrote the original story and others had copied their content. Kumparan also disagreed to allegations. From there, as with the way of social media, things all got heated up and murky because everyone started weighing in.

There was talk of lawsuits, the use of the UU ITE, going to the press council and other remedies. As usual, everyone had strong opinions.

What lessons can the rest of us get from this incident? Here’s Unspun’s list:

1. Kurawa may or may not have jumped to a premature conclusion that the publications all had been bought over by Anies to report the incident. The media, however,  still needs to look at themselves and how they report the news

2. What’s obvious is that there was a lot of cut-and-paste and story/photo sharing on the level of the reporters. How   This managed to evade the scrutiny of the editors is the real story here. And even if they had, surely a good editor would look at the competitors’ stories the next day and call in the reporters for the cut-and-paste stories?

3. The established media’s standards have been dropping for a long time and they are not functioning as a vigilant Forth Estate should. Issues and incidents arise and just as fast sink into obscurity and neglect. There is no follow-through of stories to their end. Hard questions are not asked.

4. The established media houses should realize that the only way they can recover from this tailspin of diminishing advertising revenues is to boost their credibility. It is only with good, hard reporting that they can stand any chance of staying alive, let alone return to profitability. The Guardian is a good example where good journalism pays.

In a time in Indonesia when all the three estates of the country – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – have shown themselves to be dysfunctional, it is more important now than ever for the Press – the Fourth Estate – to  provide the checks and balances that would ensure that Indonesia remain a vibrant democracy.

One can only hope that this incident forces everyone involved to do some introspection of their rights and obligations to Indonesian society, and then go ahead to discharge them.

 

 

 

Did Bukalapak’s Achmad Zaky really apologize?

For years we have been using Achmad Zaky interview tapes to demonstrate to media training clients what not to do when speaking to the Press or, in his case, to anybody really.

That’s because when he speaks before cameras the performance is usually cringeworthy for any PR professional. he usually comes across as cavalier, gruff and unpolished and saying things that aren’t always relevant and sometimes comes across as offensive.

Now, of course, Achmad Zaky has outdone himself.

Yesterday he took to Twitter to rail against the Government’s allocation to R&D:

Bad enough that he implicitly criticized the government for paying lip service to Industry 4.0 (if anyone knows what 4.0 is supposed to mean please let me) without providing the funding for it.

The biggest mistake in his Tweet, however, is when her seeming attacked the president personally in this sensitive runup to the president elections. “Hopefully, the next president would be able to increase (the funding).”

This Tweet caused a Tweetstorm from Jokowi’s supporters using the hashtag #uninstallbukalapak They feel particularly betrayed because Jokowi recently graced Bukalapak’s anniversary celebrations and appeared side-by-side with Zaky before the Press.

This is a favor, according to industry insiders, that Ahmad Zaky has been clamoring for. They say that Zaky has been envious his rival, Tokopedia’s William Tanuwijaya who seem to get much more attention from the media and the President than Zaky. So when Zaky was seen criticising the president and asking for his ouster with the “next president” reference, it hurt particularly bad.

When the criticisms started raining down on him Zaky tried to explain his way out of it with another Tweets:

It’s one of those non-apology apologies where he explained how his intent was misconstrued and misrepresented.

He then tried the maaf  word, but here again it was a non-apology apology. “Sorry to Jokowi’s supporters if there was anything amiss in my words has caused any misconceptions. I know Jokowi as someone who is good whom I consider like my own father (we’re both from Solo). Recently he visited us at our anniversary. There is certainly no ill will in my Tweet.

It is apologies like this that infuriate people. Explanations and justifications instead of an admission of wrong doing followed by an absence of proper contrition. It would not be surprising if it inflames rather than abates the fury of Jakowi’s supporters toward Zaky.

Indonesia has few unicorns as it is and Bukalapak provides a good challenge to Tokopedia and other other players. It would be a pity if Zaky’s lack of communications skills sinks his promising business.

He should get professional help, or at least listen to his professional PR advisors if they are any good, before he utters the next public statement or Tweets his thoughts. And while he’s at it he would do well to also whether his gruff communication style has rubbed off on the rest of Bukalapak, resulting in his minions treating their vendors and partners with the same perceived lack of care and respect.

 

 

 

Adding a role at The Palm Scribe

Recently I added another role to my LinkedIn account and have since been getting lots of well wishes but also a number of concerned questions on whether I had stopped working at Maverick to become advisor at The Palm Scribe.

So here’s a note of explanation to the concerned and the curious.

Palm Scribe Logo

The first thing to point out is that the new title does not change anything at Maverick.

I continue to work there but because I’ve been fortunate to have found a very capable team who are able to take over much of what I do, I have decided to take Fridays off to reflect and have some me time; as well as to take on more of a mentor and advisory rather than operational role.

At the end of the day, however, this is a people and relationship business and if the clients need me I’m always there for them.

In the meantime, however, I’ve taken on the role as advisor in a platform run under the auspices of Maverick, The Palm Scribe.

What is The Palm Scribe?

In short The Palm Scribe is a platform that supports the development of the Indonesian palm oil industry through constructive journalism.

Like all elevator pitches, that description is meant to pique rather than provide a comprehensive explanation.

So if you’re piqued here’s the reasoning behind The Palm Scribe.

To start with, consider the palm oil industry.

It is complex and controversial because it is the frontline of many opposing issues: Sustainability vs environmental destruction, conversation vs deforestation, development vs conservation, East versus West, developed vs developing countries, palm oil vs soy, people vs big business, NGOs vs planters…

Strong opinions are expressed on all sides but the playing field is a bit uneven as its tilted in favor of the Western/Green advocates. There are several reasons why this is so.

  1. The Western players are more sophisticated in lobbying and communication techniques. They take their communications seriously and are more able to put their side of the story across. Their Asian/African counterparts do not take communications seriously and are usually outflanked.
  2. NGOs are social media savvy. They are hungrier because they have to earn their funding and as a result they are more innovative and creative in using paid, earned, shared and owned media to make themselves known. Many of them also realize that to persuade is to appeal to the emotions first and foremost an they succeed admirably.
  3. The mainstream media is devastated by falling readership and revenue. As a result they have few journalists and resources left to raise the right questions and issues and to ask the right questions of and hold accountable the policymakers, players and NGOs. Reactive journalism, click baiting stories and cut and paste reporting happens more often than we would want them to be.
  4. Most journalists think that palm oil players are slimeballs because they often do not act like they are open, accessible or accountable. Combined with #3, they are disposed to carry any attacks on the palm oil players prominently and tag on their responses (if they get around to issuing one at all in a timely manner) later in the story. By then the damage is done.
  5. The palm oil players themselves are bad communicators. Many of them are owned and run by business people more accustomed to deal making in backrooms than realizing that public opinion can affect their businesses. Others are run by families where bloodlines rather than competencies determine who is the decision maker. The result is that there are almost no oil palm player that can communicate in a persuasive, authentic and credible manner.
  6. Ineffective committees and trade associations. Apart from Malaysia that has quite an active lobbying and communications effort, their Indonesian counterparts are more mired in bureaucracy and pleasing all stakeholders rather than projecting a favorable image for the industry.
  7. Most importantly, however, because of all the elements mentioned above the public discourse on palm oil has gone askew. There is a world shortage of food and in edible oil that will be more acute with time. Of all the oil crops, palm oil is the most efficient oil to help address this shortage. As such you would think that the discourse on palm oil should be on how to make the industry strong, viable and sustainable. Unfortunately, however, most of the conversation and discourse on palm oil is about violations to conservation and sustainability standards (some arbitrarily advanced by this body or that) and the wrongdoings of the players. Something needs to be done about this if palm oil is indeed the crop for the future.

Having helped some palm oil companies manage attacks agains them as well as helping to tell their side of the story when it coms to sustainability issues, one of the things I realized is that many of the palm players are so traumatized by what they perceive is an antagonistic media/NGO environment that they do not know what to do. So many of them opt to keep their heads below the parapet instead. This does not serve them well because every negative story or article gets accumulated in Google and when investors and others want to find out about you, guess where they go to first?

Out of all this the idea of The Palm Scribe was born. Instead of fault-finding journalism we would adopt the principles of Constructive Journalism (a concept I personally poo pooed until I started to research more about it).

We would cover the palm oil industry, raise the issues that ned to be raised, ask the right questions. We would focus on the solutions the companies adopt or put in place in response to allegations of wrong doing. And we would also provide them a “non-editorial” space on our website to showcase their CSR, sustainability and community engagement efforts as well as space of their announcements and press releases.

In going into this we were aware that the success of such a platform rests on its credibility, judged by the quality of it content. As such, we scouted around and was fortunate to be able to enlist the talents of Bhimanto Suwasteyo, a veteran Indonesian journalist who has worked for AFP for years and one of the founding editors of The Jakarta Globe to generate our content. He works with Wicaksono, better known as Ndoro Kakung, who is a very respected name in social media circles, as well as a team that supports the content generation in the platform.

On the question of credibility, some might question whether a platform run by a PR consultancy can be trusted not to spin things. To them I can only say that if they understand what PR truly does they would understand that it is about getting companies and clients to communicate authentically and credibly. You cannot do that if your words are not matched with your actions.

Will The Palm Scribe work? Who knows. We live in an age of disruption where old ways of doing things no longer work and nobody can say with great certainty what does and what does not. We at Maverick think that this is worth a try because if we succeed we could potentially change how companies in controversial industries can communicate.

If you are still interested in The Palm Scribe, write to me at ong[at]maverick.co.id or check out its website.

Alexis: right decision for the wrong reasons

Alexis almost certainly has prostitution as one of its services and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan is right to close it down if morality is his kind of thing.

But shutting it down based on press reports rather than on hard evidence is worrying, as it sets a bad precedence of executive action based on suspicion.

What this means is that in future all the Jakarta government has to do is suspect that you are guilty of a violation to impose sanctions on you.

And the basis of their suspicion? Media reports.

While there are many responsible and professional journalists out there who would document and recheck their facts before going to print, there. are many more still who are slack, naive and easily manipulated or can be bought or intimidated.

This being the case, it is not difficult for anyone to engineer negative stories against any business or party. And given the depleted ranks of journalists because of falling ad revenues it is easy for even implausible stories to be copy pasted onto other publications, amplifying the negativity.

With Anies’ action to deny the renewal of Alexis based on mere press resports rather than, say, an investigation by City Hall officers or the Police, we have entered the dubious territory of Kangaroo Courts.

We’d better hop onto trying to right this wrong before we end up in Anies’s pocket.

Did Jokowi also call for Pribumi privileges?

This is what I wrote in the Maverick blog today

Did Jokowi say the P word as reported by CNN?

These are sensitive times. Since newly installed Jakarta Governor made his Protect Pribumis speech at his inauguration the P word has gained new political impetus.

One thing about the internet is that what is old can be made new again, with a new twist.

Responding to the widespread criticism against their leader, Anies Baswedan’s supporters trotted out CNN Indonesia’s report on 22 June saying that he was not the only Pribumi champion and the cue was actually set by Jokowi.

 

Going beyond the headline and reading the news, however, reveals that Jokowi did not say the P word.

What he actually said was read more here

More than just business

We read the news every day but how much do we know about the editors behind the news? What informs their thinking and decisions? At Maverick we decided to find out about this important group of people the good old-fashioned way, by actually talking to them.

Here, published in Maverick’s blog, we talk to Arif Budisusilo who helms Indonesia’s most important business publication, Bisnis Indonesia. We found that he has very original views about nationalism and national interest, among other things.

My thanks to Iwan Kurniawan for coming up with the idea of interviewing the literal newsmakers, and also Nurniyati who was in the media relations team but has left for greener pastures in Singapore, for coming up with the idea and making things happen.

Arif Budisusilo of Bisnis Indonesia: National Interest over Nationalism – Maverick Indonesia

Last year, when the Rupiah was falling alarmingly and Indonesia’s economy looked increasingly shaky, Bisnis Indonesia chief editor Arif Budisusilo was confronted by a young reporter who felt that the nation’s premier business newspaper was being too pro-Government. “’What’s with our coverage? Are we speaking on behalf of the Government? Have we been given projects by the Government? The young reporter demanded to know,” said Arif, who’s also known as AB, the first two syllables of his full name. The young reporter was indignant because he felt that Bisnis Indonesia had not been critical enough in its reporting of the government’s handling of the economy. Then, explained AB, Bisnis Indonesia had adopted the policy that it is to no one’s benefit if all it did was report on the anxiety, fear and pessimism felt by businesspeople. “If we did just that, then all we would do is to make businesses more anxious and worsen the situation.”

Read more

RIP Jakarta Globe (Printed Version) 2008-2015

The Jakarta Globe has been interesting to watch since its birth in 2008, beginning with an idealism to start a quality newspaper against a trend of dropping readership in printed dailies.

Unspun was skeptical of the paper’s success from the start, a view that won him few friends in the startup paper then. But Unspun began to have a kinder view of the paper after it hired veteran journalist Bhimanto Suwastoyo from AFP to be the managing editor. Bhim, apart from being a friend, is known and respected in journalism for his knowledge and his management and training of young journalists.Together with veteran journalists David Plott and Lin Neuman, they had a team who were capable of putting out a good paper.

The Jakarta Globe’s inaugural issue. All water under the bridge now.

The Globe then had a good run, and at one point seemed a better paper than the established The Jakarta Post.

Then things began to slide.

The paper was using too much money and they began to lay off its editors. It hit a new low when it ran an editorial on Lady Gaga. It was around then that Unspun, who had switched subscribing from the Post to the Globe, switched back to the lesser calamity.

The rest is history. More journalists were laid off and The Jakarta Globe accelerated in its sad and slow decline. Today it is a parody of a newspaper especially with its ridiculous new format. It is pathetically thin and its layout is meant to mimic its website, with photographs and news in panels tiled on a page. In other pages its mostly ripped off wires with the token “own reporting” from the Berita Satu Group. Apparently the remaining journalists there tried to tell the owners that it looked horrible and wouldn’t work but the bosses were in no mood to listen.

Part of the reason for this format is because the Riadys who own it think, not necessarily erroneously, that the future is online. That may be true but online or off, what ultimately marks the organisation as a news institution would be the quality of its journalism. There is little evidence that the online version today matches the quality of its stories in the printed version’s glory days.

The Jakarta Globe’s printed version today looks so miserable that it might as well be dead. Anyone who cares about journalism would want to put it down for humanitarian and compassionate reasons. No paper that once gave the leading English daily in Indonesia a run for their money should be allowed to continue to exist in such a zombie-like state.

Unspun’s been a follower of the Globe’s birth, rise and fall all these years and there’s not much point writing more about it except perhaps to catalogue the previous posts in this blog that charts a rough history of the paper that has ceased to exist, in roughly chronological order:

Riyadi looking for journos for his new paper
One more English-language daily in Indonesia

Media on Globe

The Jakarta Globe spins slowly

Jakarta Globe by the 14th?

Jakarta Globe out today

AFP’s loss, Jakarta Globe’s gain

Two Riady papers in one week

Post or Globe? You decide

Percolating thoughts about Post, Globe and the Malaysian blogosphere

The Post prepares to strike back

Jakarta Globe 9; Jakarta Post 0

One step forward for Post, one step back for Globe?

An active and mixed year so far for Lippo group

9 Indonesian media houses laying off staff

The Globe blazes a path in intellectual parrying

The beginning of the end of the Globe?
Did The Jakarta Globe’s editorial go gaga over Lady Gaga?

The Jakarta Globe mounts a defensive commentary on its Lady Gaga editorial

The vibrancy of The Jakarta Globe’s editorial pages