Helping out journalists when they need it

What I wrote in the Maverick blog today. Journalists are getting Covid and this causes many of them financial difficulties.

Many companies expect their help in publicising their messages in good times. Now when times are tough, they need out help

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

Inside the mind of the self-censors

Unspun‘s often wondered what makes a self-perceived journalist want to be a practicing journalist in Singapore or Malaysia today, when you know before you plunge in that you will have to self-censor or be censored.

Why go in to the lion’s den and then after that complain about the nature of the lion? Is it masochism or idealism, of the highest order of bravery or misplacement, that spurs these young men and women to take up the calling?

Unspun was once in the former category as a journalist in Malaysia but that was before Operasi Lallang, when the Press was emasculated and there was still room to maneuver in spite of the attempts of self-censorship.

But one wonders these days how much room there is left to rage against the dying of the light of press freedom in those countries?

Singapore journalist on self-censorship: we can’t be controversial, we have to play the game 

In this interview, a former reporter for broadcaster and publisher MediaCorp, who wished to remain anonymous, talks to Mumbrella about one of the most sensitive issues for the media in Singapore – self-censorship.

Mumbrella’s Asia editor Robin Hicks spoke to a reporter who covered the last elections about how to play the news-getting game in Singapore, being labelled a ‘government mouthpiece’, and what the new regime for news websites really means.

It is said that Singaporeans learn from a very early age what what is politically acceptable to say in public. If true, would you say that this self-censorship is taken by young journalists into news rooms in Singapore?

George Yeo: founding father of Singapore's 'OB markers'

A long-standing part of our social education is that there are certain things you have to treat sensitively, for the sake of racial harmony and societal stability. But at school, we were never told in an overt way that we could not comment on race or religion. It was only after I had studied overseas, in Australia, that I really became aware that there was such a thing as ‘OB markers’ [a term first used in 1991 by the then foreign minister George Yeo, to describe the boundaries for political discourse in Singapore].

The internet changed everything. Singaporeans were shown a different view of our media and how it works. Foreign commentators were saying our media is repressed. That it’s a government controlled monopoly. But I already knew, as most people did, that there was a gap in how our political news was being reported.

As a young reporter starting out, I was conscious that I might be controlled. I was concerned that I would not be able to do good journalism. But I had come back to Singapore from overseas because I felt that I could not change the country I love as an outsider. And I guess I was quite idealistic then, as were many of my peers. I was determined not to self-censor. But with the way the mainstream press works in Singapore, in some ways self-censorship is inevitable.

Read more

The Globe blazes a path in intellectual parrying

Isn’t free speech a wonderful thing? And The Jakarta Globe seems to be pioneering the spirit of the cut and thrust of intellectual parrying to unprecedented great heights to preserve the precious right to freedom.

Last Friday avid readers of The Jakarta Globe were treated to a seemingly no-holds-barred criticism of President SBY for canceling his trip to the Netherlands. The Oped piece was by Joe Cochrane, who must presumably have some journalistic sense and appreciation of national issues because he is The Jakarta Globe’s own Contributing Editor.

Today The Jakarta Globe’s own Editor-in-Chief Wim Tangkilisan has waded into the debate of the President. The EIC also seems to be a no-holds-barred kind of man, only this time the gloves were taken off in the direction of his own contributing editor, Cochrane.

In this Oped piece Tangkilisan not only tried to defend the President, he elevated SBY to an all-seeing Presence and took Cochrane personally to task for an Oped piece “full of holes”. To untrained eyes the piece may look like a rather personal attack against a colleague and a subordinate and a reaction against someone slipping the story in while the EIC was away, but some seasoned journalists would say that this is the pinnacle of intellectual parrying that, when conducted in its right spirit would yield the ultimate truth about an issue, or issues.

So what do the sparks emanating from the clash of intellectual swords between Tangkilisan and Cochrane tell us, dear reader?

The Larger Picture? In Canceling His Trip To the Netherlands, SBY Saw It Clearly
Wim Tangkilisan | October 11, 2010

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been severely criticized — pilloried is perhaps the more accurate term — for postponing his state visit to the Netherlands.

He pushed it back at a time when the visit suddenly became inauspicious because of a last-minute court case filed by a leader of the separatist South Maluku Republic (RMS) with the District Court of The Hague, charging the president with the torture of at least 21 RMS members.

Among the fiercest of the criticisms aimed at the president were those in an opinion column by Joe Cochrane in the Jakarta Globe last weekend.

It accused the president of being unable to see the “larger picture” in deciding to postpone the visit, of being onion-skinned, of insulting Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and, implicitly, of being paranoid. Cochrane also took the president to task for calling the behavior of The Hague District Court unethical.

As a journalist, Cochrane can criticize anybody he wants to criticize, including the president of Indonesia. That is his right. However, I must point out that his criticisms against the president regarding this particular issue — the postponement of the state visit — are, like those of most other critics, full of holes.

Rest of story

Jakarta Globe 9; Jakarta Post 0

Unspun wonders what the portents must be for the venerable Jakarta Post when an upstart new English daily that is just one-year old can field nine finalists in the prestigious Anugerah Adiwarta Sampoerna journalism awards while the Jakarta Post, which has always prided itself being the best in a field of one for years, didn’t even have a single name in the finalists’ list.

The  list was announced last week and the awarding night will be next Thursday, on December 3.

Judges of the AAS during an evaluation session

The Globe’s Dewi Kurniawati was shortlisted for her article “Miseries of Our Migrant Workers: A world of Peril, Crime, and Crushed Dreams” and Hera Diani was shortlisted for her investigative efforts, that is part of a series, of the “Cost of Smoking.”

It was, however, in the photojournalism section that The Jakarta Globe showed its prowess with seven nominations.  There will be a few justifying quips in The Post’s newsroom that goes something like  “Of course they are going to win, they have so many pages to fill and not enough copy to do it.” That, however, is besides the point. The fact is that in a fair fight adjudged by respected industry figures the Jakarta Globe trounced the Jakarta Post.

The Globe’s photojournalist finalists are below:

Economy and business

M. Safir Makki – Jakarta Globe. “Gimme Shelter”

Jurnasyanto Sukarno – Jakarta Globe. “Trade Suspension”


Yudhi Sukma Wijaya – Jakarta Globe.  “Squeaky Clean”


Jurnasyanto Sukarno – Jakarta Globe.  “The Serial Killer”

M. Safir Makki – Jakarta Globe.  “Faces in the Crowd”

Arts and Culture

Yudhi Sukma Wijaya – Jakarta Globe. “Baca Mantra”
Yudhi Sukma Wijaya – Jakarta Globe. “Refleksi Seniman Batik”

So what does this say of the state of competition among the only two English language dailies in Indonesia? Several questions pop to mind:

1. Would the bosses and editors at The Post treat this as a wake up call, or will they continue to bury their heads in the sand?

2. Who actually produces a better paper these days? The Globe or the Post? Perhaps raders of this posting might want to help inform the papers with this simple poll below.

My gate’s keeper

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?

Riyadi looking for journos for his new paper

Update: The paper is to be called Jakarta Globe and it would be housed at the Aston, the group of apartments/office space owned by Lippo and which houses Globe Asia. It is also confirmed by Joe Cochrane himself that he will be the Deputy Editor

Having had a taste of the power and glory, real or perceived, from owning a business publication in the form of the Globe Asia, James Riyadi is now going full bore in setting up his new English-language business and general affairs daily. Nobody seems to know what the paper is to be called although some have speculated that it may be called the Globe Daily. At any rate let’s, for convenience sake, refer to it as Globe Daily.

The soon to be published paper has taken a half page advertisement in Kompas today announcing that is is looking for a chief political correspondent, specialist reporters in the fields of defense, the legislature, office of the president, environment and health and the Jakarta goverment and its related issues. In business it is looking for specialist reporters in finance, the capital market, infrastructure mining and natural resources, trade, labor and consumer affairs.

It is also looking for 10 general reporters, 5 lifestyle reporters, 2 sports reporters and 10 designersFrom its requirements it looks like James has learned from his mistakes at Globe Asia and has other people thinking about an interactive strategy to go with the paper. When he launched Globe Asia the people running it were so clueless they did not even think of registering a domain name or checked who were using (see here).

This time around the reporters, said the advertisement, will be required to file for the web and also do standup reports for the video component of the website.

All fine and well, but one wonders where they will get all that talent. Continue reading “Riyadi looking for journos for his new paper”