Wednesday, August 02, 2006
  If you can't beat us, join us.

A strange phenomenon is taking place here in Indonesia's Blogland. Where once we amateur journalists and commentators were viewed as mavericks and of little consequence, it seems that our endeavours have been filling an informational gap.

As Amy says in one of my of my comment boxes, "As an alternative may bloggers continue to write heaps. As a wingeing reader, what we get from the press is oftentimes no more than advertorial ... the motor review written by the product salesman, same with that fascinating overseas tour from the tour organizer, the preview of the preview of a must see show, it's all, how shall we say, Linked."

That is very true Amy, but what I look to the 'professional' (i.e. paid) press for is the sense that they serve a community. I'm not overly bothered by those media which espouse a viewpoint diametrically opposed to mine as I much prefer to live in a pluralist society. The thought of living in a community in which we are all Stepford Wives (Husbands and Children) is totally anathema to me.

My papers of choice are the Guardian from England and the Jakarta Post here. As you may have noticed, I often link to and quote from their articles in order to add veracity to my posts. Since Jakartass was born in March 2004, I have noticed a certain synchronicity, a partnership, between us. The Guardian gives me a plug in its worldwide weblog list and they contacted me shortly after the Jimbaran bombings. The Jakarta Post has, on a few occasions, echoed my stories, most recently with the abrogation of social responsibility by the foreign-owned water companies here in Jakarta.

One could argue that this synchronicity is mere happenstance and I would accept that. I don't seek scoops and merely offer, on occasion, ascerbic comments which would not be acceptable in a family newspaper, if only because those criticised would probably use the laws of libel to muzzle my voice of dissent.

So far, to my knowledge there has been only one attempt to stifle a blogger here in Indonesia, though Indcoup does worry about our potential fate here. Maybe the powers-that-be think that the Indonesian blogosphere is of such little significance that there is no need yet for a 'Press Council' to control our output. We usually manage to exercise good editorial self-control. In general, too, although there are occasional breaches of what may be termed 'netiquette', we have been a supportive community. Rare has been the need to delete comments, a feature that adds to the vibrancy and, I suggest, the validity of what we write.

For these reasons perhaps, journalists who are not content with having an editor monitoring their output or who wish to see their published or spiked pearls immortalised in hyperspace are setting up blogs. Duncan Graham, a contributor from Surabaya to the Jakarta Post, is one such who archives his articles in a blog. (Given the difficulty in accessing the archives of the Jakarta Post, I wish Simon Pitchforth, who writes a column, Metro Mad, for the Sunday edition, would also archive his observations. He is, after all, the only person to give Jakartass a name check in print.)

Journalist blogs range from the informational, such as Yosef Ardi's to the more analytical as in the group blog Paras Indonesia. (It is worth noting that the latter is a vehicle for the cadre of politicos who've split away from ex-President Megawati's party, PDI-P.)

I have recently discovered a few more Indonesian journalists who've gone online. There's Ong Hock Chuan who describes himself as a former journalist, present PR hack, diver, disaster-prone mountain biker, amateur photographer (and) neophyte blogger. Ong works with/for a Jakarta-Based PR Consultancy on the media, journalists, PR, communications and life in Indonesia called Maverick. Their group blog lists eight local journalist bloggers and their 'Big Family', colleagues I presume, is nine strong.

And it's through them I discovered that the current edition of the weekly magazine Majalah Tempo has six pages on Indonesian blogging. Yosef tells me that Jakartass doesn't get a mention and neither does he but it's a good article anyway.

Of greater import to my thesis about the supposed value of hyperspaced journalism is Ong's posting about the birth of the Asia Sentinel.

Where do mainstream journalists go to reinvent themselves? Some move into PR, others into blogging, some both. Others, like former Far Eastern Economic Review editor and regular International herald Tribune contributor Philip Bowring and former managing editor of The Standard John Berthelsen, go on to freelance and eventually try to start up a "standalone internet publishing site," the Asia Sentinel.

The website went live yesterday (August 1st) and, in a letter addressed to undisclosed recipients, Bowring says that it was "created by journalists, myself included, to provide a platform for news, analysis and opinion on Asian affairs, national and regional and encompassing politics, business, society and the arts."

Bowring also goes on to say that The Asia Sentinel is meant to "fill the gaps in coverage left by the decline and fall of regional English-language print publications." It's a worthwhile endeavor as there are almost no in-depth English publications left of any note that cover Asia seriously.

The question is whether the Asia Sentinel team are the right ones to pull it off. The other journalists in this venture are Lin Neumann, a former Executive Editor of The Standard and Anthony Spaeth, most recently executive editor for Time Asia.

Not exactly a blog as the feedback will presumably be at the whim of the editors. So I'll comment here that I think that initially there is a lack of depth in articles such as:

The Melody and Mimi show
An enterprising Filipina who made her money as a porn star has turned her self-marketing talents to American politics. She speaks to A Lin Neumann.


The Wandering Palate: Pinot Noir doesn't fight back
A look at Australian and New Zealand pinot noirs. Do they really have fewer headaches per bottle than other vintages?


"There are no items to display" about Indonesia.

So I suppose I'll have to carry on blogging.

Ho hum.

Thursday 7am Follow up

Journalists in most countries have a professional code governing what is permissable in searching for and publishing an article.

A case in New York reported in the NY Times and commented upon yesterday in the Guardian blog raises the issues of the rights, responsibilities, and protections of citizens acting as journalists.

This is a very grey area, especially here in Indonesia, a mere eight years after Suharto abdicated. Press freedom cannot yet be taken for granted, partly because there are too many private agendas and interests behind the publishers.

Individual bloggers in Indonesia currently have few readers in circulation terms and none of us earn a living from our endeavours. Still, as Jeff Jarvis says in the Guardian, blogging was a helluva lot easier when all we wrote about was our cats.


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