Five years later, I helped launched a new media

 

I realised that it has been five years since I updated my bio on this site, let alone post anything. Yesterday, my About page still stated that I was a reporter for The Jakarta Post. I actually had resigned, or I would fondly say “graduated” from The Jakarta Post (because I consider it my school in journalism and civic values), in 2013.

Why the silence? Perhaps it’s because I have never been an enthusiastic blogger or social media user. I feel uncomfortable sharing personal thoughts or stories from my experiences directly through a personal medium, like a blog post, a Facebook status, or even a tweet. Another reason I think, is the drop in journalistic work that I produced with my byline. More on this later.

I started my site in 2013 mainly to compile selected articles that I’ve produced and to share my experience as the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow at MIT in the fall and winter of 2013-2014. But, as I said, I was a nervous blogger. As a result I wasn’t diligent in writing about my experience at MIT, which was actually very transformative. I met The Act of Killing director Joshua Oppenheimer during my time as a fellow in the US, and his work on the legacy of 1965 violence was one of the inspirations for the movement I initiated two years later in 2016. It’s called Ingat65, a digital storytelling movement for young people of Indonesia to share their reflections on the legacy of 1965 violence. This is an important project for me and I’ll write a separate post about this.

My last post on my site was my story about reactions to Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing, about a former death-squad leader during the 1965 anticommunist purge, from the Indonesian community in New York that I wrote for the New York Times in 2014. Since then, I’ve only written a long essay for the Griffith Review and a couple of opinion pieces also in the theme of the legacy of 1965 violence, which I’ve yet to post here.

Of course, a lot has happened in my life as well as our world between 2014 and now. From Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Joko Widodo. From Barack Obama to Donald Trump. An ongoing global refugee crisis. China rising. Startups mushrooming with the advent of digital technology. “Magic” inside our phones that can summon drivers, food, groceries, masseuse and let us talk to different people simultaneously in different places and time zones at the same time. There was the Snowden Revelation in 2013 that the US was spying on everyone. But perhaps we are now actually giving our personal information for free to tech companies as our lives become more and more connected to the internet. And have you noticed the fake news circulating around in high velocity from screen to screen? The old problems of inequality, social injustice, human rights violations and conflicts persist and new problems due to technology arise.

As for me, in 2014, I joined The Conversation, a new kind of media. A not-for-profit online media that connects academics with editors to work together to provide analysis and context on pressing issues and to share the research that academics have carried out to a wider audience so it can have a bigger impact.

I was appointed Jakarta editor, leading The Conversation’s English-language coverage on Indonesia with the support of Melbourne-base Myer Foundation. At the time The Conversation has a network of newsrooms in Australia, UK, South Africa, France, and a team that commissions articles from academics from the Global South was in the making. Now The Conversation has expanded to more countries.

As Jakarta editor, I commissioned articles from Indonesian academics and beyond about issues related to Indonesia, mainly for the Australia edition, with other editions cross-posting articles that are relevant to their audience.

It was not an easy transition from seeing your byline on every article you produce to helping other people produce their articles. But by being an editor, and especially an editor with The Conversation, I gradually learned that in finding solutions to our problems and to create change, you need to tap into those who have been doing the hard work of  research and help create a culture of public engagement.

I worked with talented scientists and researchers whose works in health research, volcanology, human rights and justice, education, urban issues, economy, climate change, marine science and fisheries, gender issues are important for Indonesia and the world. I realise, as my authors did, that while it was great to share research and perspectives from Indonesia to the (English-speaking) world, the Indonesian public needs them too.

When I shared this insight to co-founder and then editor-in-chief of The Conversation Andrew Jaspan, I was thinking that perhaps we can set up one page about Indonesia at The Conversation Australia. But he had a bolder idea. He encouraged me to set up a pilot for a dedicated bilingual Indonesia edition of The Conversation. This idea was warmly welcomed by the Indonesian Academy of Science (AIPI) who hosted me in their office (the picture above is the view from our office) and helped me obtain endorsements from rectors of top Indonesia universities.

After a lot of meetings and pitches to find donors who would support us, the Open Society Foundation’s Independent Journalism Program became our first supporter. With OSF’s support, we recruited Evi Mariani from The Jakarta Post, to help set up the launch and cover politics and society (As of late February she’s returned to The Post, being promoted as managing editor. Ika Krismantari, from The Jakarta Post too, will join us to fill Evi’s position). We recruited Ikram Putra, formerly Yahoo and Liputan6 to build our audience and nurture relationships with media and universities, and Ahmad Nurhasim, formerly Tempo, to cover our science section. OSF support also allowed us to create a science podcast in collaboration with radio news agency KBR. I became the Editor of The Conversation Indonesia.

Last year on September 6, we launched The Conversation Indonesia.

 

Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 11.15.16

I am over the moon proud of this. It was not easy. And there is still a lot of work to make sure it’s successful and sustainable so that we can continue to “inform public debate with knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence”.

I think partly my silence the past four years (on this blog at least) was due to the growing pains of learning how to start something new. I had a lot of support from the team in Australia, and my colleague Damian Thompson in Boston, the wonderful board of advisors in Indonesia, and my pilot team here in Jakarta. The biggest challenge I think was not the task at hand, but my own self-doubt and fear of failure. I am working on this one and feeling more confident.

For those who have read all the way through down here. Thank you. Now, go check out my work :). We have a daily newsletter that you can subscribe to using your email. If you’re an academic and want to write, pitch to us here.

And if you’re an editor of an online media, feel free to republish our content. We publish under Creative Commons, so everyone can republish our articles for free. We only ask you to put a counter code on your CMS. We’re doing this so that knowledge can spread as wide as possible and that our authors can have a measure of their public engagement.

Also tomorrow, Monday, March 12, 2018, we air our  premier episode of our science podcast Sains Sekitar Kita (Science Around Us) produced together with KBR. Listen to it tomorrow morning on KBR Pagi and check it out on our website too.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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