Source: Asia New Zealand Foundation – Covering tough stories for the Jakarta Globe
Auckland University of Technology journalism graduate Eva Corlett spent six weeks reporting on stories for the Indonesian newspaper the Jakarta Globe. She was there as part of the 2015 Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) Journalism Professional Practicum, along with Taupo Times reporter Kirsty Lawrence.
Jakarta is a place of polarity: makeshift warung or, food stalls, compiled of corrugated iron and plastic signs stand in front of glossy impenetrable malls; leafy affluent streets with Dutch colonial architecture intersect dilapidated, rubbled lanes.
It’s as crowded and exhausting, as it is a sensory medley.
After six weeks taking part in the ACICIS programme and interning with the Jakarta Globe, I learned just how faceted and intricate the political climate, human rights issues, media landscape, corruption and, crucially, Indonesian culture is.
Interning with the Globe enabled me to explore some of these issues in depth and gain insight into the way media operates. I and three other young Australian and New Zealand journalists were asked to arrive with story ideas. This was daunting, considering we had barely been in the country two weeks and had only a handful of connections.
Education is an area that I’m interested in and after speaking with the editor at length he revealed the Indonesian system is going through an identity crisis. Literacy and mathematics levels are low and organisations are springing up to fill gaps within the system. Corruption within schools is endemic.
To cover this story, I spoke with a diverse range of Indonesians – school children, education organisations, teachers and the education minister himself. The story became a two-part feature, making the front page twice and stimulating discussion both nationally and internationally. It was exhilarating and validating to witness something I had produced be discussed so widely.
It became apparent to me in researching this story that Indonesia operates in a very different media landscape.
Unlike western media where papers are closing and many media organisations merging, papers, radio stations, television and digital is expanding massively in Indonesia. Free media has operated for a relatively short time since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship and politicians, in particular have recognised its usefulness.
For my story on Indonesia’s education system, accessibility was easy and the rigmarole of having to go through communications departments – only to be met with homogenous answers – was non-existent. To set up an interview with the education minister, I merely sent a text message.
The third feature I wrote was looking at President Joko Widodo’s campaign promises to West Papua and his apparent inaction towards fulfilling them. This story was hugely challenging. It is a deeply complex and volatile topic and one I could really only put together through phone interviews. I was very aware of my own limitations in writing this story, but it equally proved valuable in pushing me to quickly digest a torrent of information.
Working in a Jakarta newsroom, I felt challenged and connected to something large, evolving and exciting.
A highlight of the programme was meeting such a wonderful array of young, engaging, international journalists as well as others working in the fields of development and business. My friendships and networks have expanded dramatically.
The two-week learning programme enabled me to pick up the language quickly. By the end of the second week, having no prior knowledge of the language, I was speaking to a taxi driver about our respective families, Jokowi, corruption, floods and food. It is a language I wish to continue learning.
The afternoon seminars, while dense and at times exhausting in the afternoon heat, were fantastically informative.
The Jakarta Globe was an excellent place to intern in part because of the autonomy we were allowed in producing our stories. The downside of that was that there was little room to shadow other reporters and get a taste for high turnover daily news. However, it enabled us sink our teeth into some of the bigger topics that other journalists there are unable to do because of time pressure.
Weekends were spent either exploring the city – the plethora of markets, food stalls, malls and eateries.
I am overwhelmingly appreciative of the opportunity Asia New Zealand Foundation provided me. Similarly, the ACICIS programme was enriching and revealing.
- Jokowi’s Papuan promises ring hollow to those on the ground
- Grand plans and passionate pleas for reform from education chief Anies
- Turning the tide for Indonesia’s unsettled education sector