My Interview on Jawa Pos

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I’d interviewed people throughout my shortlived career of journalism but nothing beats the sensation of being interviewed. It feels like you’ve been awarded with honor.

The article was originally written in Bahasa Indonesia. But here I wrote it just for you in English. Below is the list of questions and answers of my email exchange with the journalist, Wiwi of Jawa Pos newspaper. This is the raw, uncut version of the interview.

Q: How were you first involved in Yoga Gembira Community?

A: Initially I got involved in the community by accident. I came to Taman Suropati on one Sunday morning in December 2010. At the time, I already discovered the information  somewhere on the web about what the community did. It happened to be near where I reside, in Jakarta Selatan. I was looking for a pastime activity on weekends. Prior to that, I had been reading several books on yoga and watched some videos yet I had never learned how to practice correctly and properly under a guru’s supervision. I definitely needed one to start practicing yoga.

I was interested in yoga simply because yoga can be practiced anywhere, anytime. I’m not obliged to go to a certain place to do yoga. I don’t have to go to a gym or studio once I master the basic techniques.

But still I wanted to start doing yoga with a guru’s assistance so as to prevent injuries because learning yoga asanas from books and videos on YouTube seems inadequate.

At the time, I encountered Yudhi Widdyantoro in Taman Suropati. He’s my first yoga teacher. He initiated the community as a social movement to empower the society, making parks in the city filled with more energy so there won’t be more new malls built. We have had too many malls, he always says.

Yudhi has taught me a lot about yoga ever since. Every Sunday morning, I showed up and started to be actively involved in each activity of the community. That led me to Yoga Gembira Festival (YOGFEST), a yoga festival held annually since 2014.

In 2013, I took part in Indonesia Yoga School yoga teacher training as a student. I chose the school as I wanted to study more from Yudhi in a formal way. He taught pranayama (the breathing techniques in yoga), yin yoga and philosophy of yoga there. Since then, I began teaching privately. I taught an American expatriate working in Jakarta but this class lasted only a few months as he had to go home after the company closed down. That was how I started my career as a private yoga guru in Jakarta. Now I have more classes and small groups to teach. Most of them are employees of companies.

Q: Can you share some of your unique experiences as a participant and instructor in Yoga Gembira Community?
A: Experiences are many. For example, the class just began when Anjasmara Prasetya was teaching us at Taman Suropati. Suddenly at the same time a music band of youths played their tracks with fast beat rhythm. The class could hardly hear what Anjasmara instructed us to do.

Once we also had to deal with a mosquito fogging team in the neighborhood. In the middle of Anjasmara’s class, they sprayed the chemical substances into the air. The fog killed not only the larvae but also the class’ serenity without further ado. We couldn’t breathe! Thank God most of us stayed and the wind blew, sweeping away all the artificial toxics from the supposedly pristine air of the park.

Q: How significant is yoga to you and why?

A: Yoga makes me more balanced and sane in some way as I wade through the mundane world filled with physical, mental, psychological, and intelligential demands. I can liken yoga to a Formula 1 car at a pit stop. It’s where and when one can just take a break for a while, take care of what needs to be taken care of, change what should be corrected, balance what needs balancing, and so forth.

Q: What does it take to be a yoga instructor?

A: To be a yoga instructor these days, one is required to attend a registered yoga school and complete it. The certificate of completion may vary based on the duration of participation; some are 100-hour, 200-hour, 300-hour or 500-hour.

Usually, the requirements vary from a yoga school to another. A future student might be required to be able to perform an assisted headstand or wheel pose (urdhva dhanurasana). Yet, some others encourage their future students to have enthusiasm and sincere willingness to spread the teachings.

This is way different from the era of contemporary modern yoga in the early 20th century. It was the time when a yoga guru wasn’t encouraged to have a certificate. To be a yoga guru in the past, one was to attend a lengthy training period under a more experienced yoga guru’s supervision and guidance.

Only Churnalists — Not Journalists — will Get Replaced by Robots

Of all jobs, there are 8 that digital media futurist Amy Webb predicted would eventually vanish at some point in the future: toll booth operators and cashiers, marketers, customers, factory workers, financial middle men, journalists, lawyers, and phone workers.

I frowned and continued reading on. This might be a joke. Utter disbelief.

Webb argued journalists will be wiped out as the new technology could replace their functions as news gatherers. Webb, who used to work as a journalist at Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal, stated:”[…] the next culprit will be algorithms that allow news outlets to
automatically create stories and place them on websites without human interaction. Robot journalists (fedora optional) are already writing thousands of articles a quarter at The Associated Press.”

That, if it really happens, will be a calamity for us journalists.

But what we can do to prevent this from happening to us?

No worries. For versatile, professional and competent journalists, being fired and getting replaced by algorithms certainly never happens. Obviously algorithms have no creativity a human journalist has.

So be as indispensable as you can be, journos! Or else, you’ll perish.

Tentang Wawancara, Mewawancarai, Diwawancarai dan Membaca Wawancara

Wawancara. Bisa dianggap mudah saja atau tantangan luar biasa. Mewawancarai secara alami lebih dituntun oleh keingintahuan lalu terkumpullah serangkai fakta atau apapun yang diasumsikan seperti fakta. Klaim dan simpulan tak berdasar kadang menyelip di sana sini yang terpaksa muncul karena ingin hasil wawancara lebih bombastis dan menarik dibaca orang. ‎Dan mungkin, karena pemeriksaan fakta (fact checking) sudah harus mengalah oleh tenggat waktu. Maklum, pembaca makin tak sabaran. Dunia (merasa) makin tak sabaran. Ini sungguh membingungkan dan sejatinya mengibakan. Karena pewarta makin lama makin seperti budak saja. Upah tak seberapa, tetapi mesti bekerja menata kata dari berbagai fakta yang ditemuinya, tanpa kenal penat yang meraja dan redaktur yang semena-mena.

‎Wawancara kerap dilakukan secara impromptu. Alhasil pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang dikeluarkan sekenanya. Tak tersusun baik, teracak, tanpa alur. Kalaupun tersusun sebelumnya, hanya dilakukan di sela rangkaian aktivitas yang padat luar biasa. Bahkan karena otak beku, pertanyaan sering mengabaikan logika. Norma juga bukan kendala, etika juga. Lalu bagaimana? Ini semua sungguh membuat gila! Bagaimana bisa mencapai hasil sempurna?!

Tetapi mendapatkan kesempatan wawancara pun sudah beruntung kadang. Bukan sekali dua kali pertanyaan sudah tertuang rapi di lembaran dan ternyata harus dibuang ke keranjang karena ‎sang narasumber yang (berpikir dirinya) terlampau terkenal sulit ditemui langsung dan begitu sibuk, atau memilih menyibukkan diri dengan jurnalis-jurnalis media besar dan melupakan pewarta-pewarta media maya.

Sementara itu, ada sebagian mereka yang mati-matian menjerat wartawan. Membuatnya terpaku di suatu waktu dan bangku, mendengarkan perkataan narasumber gila publisitas tanpa‎ jeda lalu menyajikan berbagai suguhan menggoda. Dari voucher makan tanpa biaya, jamuan makan cuma-cuma, memiliki kesempatan mencicipi kemewahan yang tak terjangkau anggaran dari upah bulanan.

Pewarta mewawancara sering karena tak ada pilihan lain di mata. Ya sudah, apa adanya saja, gumamnya.‎ Tenggat waktu toh makin dekat. Jadi daripada hari ini kena damprat, kenapa harus kesempatan ini dibiarkan lewat? Tinggal rekam atau catat. Sisanya bisa dikembangkan dari fantasi atau hasil menjelajahi hasil yang disuguhkan mesin pencari.

Kecewa kadang mendera kalau narasumber incaran menolak menjawab pertanyaan yang merangsang perbincangan intens. Seolah ia menutup pintu. Terkunci di situ dan tak bisa melangkah lebih jauh. Yang hanya bisa dilanjutkan hanya isu-isu yang membuat jemu. Itu itu melulu. Rasanya sudah buntu.

Hati berubah gembira jika berhadapan dengan narasumber yang dermawan bukan kepalang. Satu pertanyaan sentilan membuka sekaligus banyak jawaban, bahkan yang tidak terlintas sebelumnya untuk ditanyakan. Terus, terus, terus gali saja sampai habis. Tandas hingga puas.

‎Sial, ada hal bagus untuk diberitakan yang keceplosan diucapkannya tapi ia beberapa detik kemudian baru sadar dan minta dirahasiakan. “Off the record ya…” Mungkin akan lebih mudah jika diabaikan saja dan tetap memuatnya dalam berita lalu menikmati pujian dari redaktur dan pembaca tetapi bagaimana kalau narasumber murka dan mencap tak bisa dipercaya? Susah juga ya.

Mendapat masukan tentang kesalahan padahal sudah menulis sesuai pernyataan? Bukan anomali. Bahkan frekuensi terjadinya bisa tinggi. Karena itu, jangan menggores pena tetapi rekamlah suara. Jari tak bisa bersuara, tetapi suara manusia yang bisa.

‎Diwawancarai apalagi. Tak kalah pelik. Apa yang harus dipersiapkan? Duh, nanti kalau tidak tahu harus menjawabnya bagaimana? Baiklah, jawab sebisanya. Ini bukan ujian. Rileks saja. Berpakaian terbaik, supaya kalau difoto tak akan mengecewakan orang tua dan kerabat serta sobat yang akan menjadi sasaran pameran. Percuma, karena si pewawancara tak bawa kamera. Punyanya Blackberry semata. Di hari mendung saja, hasilnya sudah kabur. Ia tak pernah meminta foto, jadi mungkin memang tak memerlukannya. Lalu setelah terbit, muncullah foto-foto di jejaring sosial. Sial! Baiklah, fotonya tak terlalu buruk tetapi bagaimanapun juga tak ada permintaan izin yang terlontar.

Spekulasi usia narasumber bukannya masalah raksasa. Bahkan bisa dikatakan propaganda biasa agar semua percaya itulah seharusnya usia berdasarkan tampilan di netra. Tak ada keberatan‎ karena kesalahan dari ketidaktahuan itu kadang sebuah kenikmatan. Namun, lain kali, akan lebih baik menulis yang benar-benar diketahui saja. Agar sang narasumber tak terkesan berbohong memudakan usia. Padahal ia tak juga berupaya menutupinya.

Waspada juga membaca hasil wawancara. ‎Mungkin yang berlebihan si pewawancara. Kadang juga si terwawancara. Acap kali dua-duanya. Atau kekurangtajaman pendengaran dan pemikiran yang perlu dimaafkan, bukan diperkarakan. Sepanjang tak ada yang merasa dirugikan atau disudutkan.

The Success Catalyst of Journalism Businesses

At Galeri Nasional

Mark Briggs of Poynter Institute claims his course would tell you – aspiring entrepreneurial journalists – what to do before plunging to the business world. After the huge success of BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post, every journalist seems enchanted to give this a try. Who knows it’ll be a fruitful business undertaking that’ll lead you to a life full of fortune?

But if you’re like me, you know it takes more than writing and reporting skills to do great in journalism industry. There’re so many factors we need to take into account to be successful. And yet, the meaning of success itself is blurred. What I mean by success may be entirely different from what you mean, and what any other journalists mean.

Briggs couldn’t be as popular and wealthy as Kara Swisher, Sarah Lacy, Jakoeb Oetama or Jonah Peretti but he is for sure quite experienced in his own way. He stated his course “aims to give participants the knowledge and tools needed to launch content-driven news/information websites. We’ll take you from idea to implementation and, when necessary, help you retool or replace ideas with better versions.” In complete, he writes:

If you’re considering starting a news or information-oriented website, this course will help you decide whether an entrepreneurial path is the right one for you. And if you’re looking for a crash course on starting a business, it will show you the ropes, point you to the right resources and help you formulate the questions you most need answers to.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN:

After completing this course, you’ll have newfound knowledge about creating a business and bringing your specific idea to fruition.

You’ll be able to:

  • Explain the difference between an idea and a product.
  • List the basic elements of a business plan.
  • Define basic business and marketing terms, including ROI and CPC.
  • List and summarize the legal structures available when establishing a business, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • List popular technological platforms and cite strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • List available analytics tools and identify what to track and how to analyze the numbers.
  • Summarize the primary options when forming a business as a legal entity, getting legal and accounting help and finding software to help run the business.
  • List and describe major ad networks (e.g., BlogHer, Federated Media)

For your specific business, you’ll be able to:

  • Define your market, approximate its size and identify your audience
  • Write an executive summary.
  • Define the current work that needs to be done and identify the people who can do it.
  • Determine whether funding is needed and, if so, how much.
  • Decide whether the business can be bootstrapped and, if not, identify options for securing funding.
  • Estimate how many users/customers/viewers/readers will be “enough” to make the business work.
  • Identify qualities that distinguish your business from your competitors.
  • Perform a basic assessment of potential adjacent markets.
  • List questions that need to be answered about your product, market and/or business.
WHO SHOULD TAKE THIS COURSE:
  • Journalists working at legacy operations interested in founding a start-up venture
  • Recent journalism graduates interested in working in journalism, but not for a “traditional” journalistic business
  • Anyone passionate about a community, topic or cause who has a desire to start a publication-based business with journalistic values

For a moment, I let the words seep into my mind. Is it going to work? Can all these topics cover what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in journalism industry?

It doesn’t seem that easy. Mastering all these things might be leading us closer to the goal but definitely not instantly.

We need a CATALYST.

What could that be? The mysterious catalyst that we’re searching for…

I remember several juniors asking me if they could just stay in the comfort of their hometowns while doing their journalism gigs. I told them, if they can be in Jakarta, it’d be much better.

The reason is because they need NETWORKS, people. They must see and talk to people, not only sitting and typing at home. Journalism businesses do NOT work that way. You have to go out, see more and more people, talk to them, dig tons of information from these folks you may not find at the smaller social circle in hometown.

A Hotel with Newsroom Flavor; Hot or Not?

The Press Hotel is like no other hotels on earth. Probably designed for overly dedicated journalists who don’t mind at all spending their life days and nights, being chained at their working desk, the hotel is located in Portland, the US. It was not a brand new building though. Previously the hotel was a number of offices of Portland Press Herald but in 2010 was left unoccupied as the journos moved to another office building.

There are so many lifestyle facilities guests can enjoy right here. The Press Hotel has its integrated art gallery full of past remnants like archaic typewriters. It is not going to excite overworked journalists who in dire need of total break from their highly demanding jobs. ‎
If you want to get drunk, go drink some booze at “The Inkwell”. It is a bar with newsy taste in every inch of it. You’ll find artworks that look like things you’re likely to find at a typical newsroom back then.

(image credit : poynter)

How to Get the New Generation of Journalists TOTALLY SCREWED

Technology is never guilty. But still most people claim it’s a double-edged sword. I crack a smile. These people are mostly as f*cked up as the problem they’re talking about.

As ridiculous as it may sound, we might need to recall how all this mess in journalism currently is blamed on the surge of information technology. To me, it sounds like a fool trying to blame his own foolishness. Human race is just looking for a scapegoat, naturally. Because technology can’t avenge! Or at least talk to the creator back.

No one can rephrase the whole chaos in journalism industry any better like Jason Calacanis, a media entrepreneur cum seasoned journalist, does. And yes, nowadays journalism is also a field of industry. Like any other industries, it must generate profits, which at times sacrifices its then-highly-valued principles.

Here’s what I can sum up from Calacanis’ thought about the mess that the fresh, newer generation of journalists have to work and live with.

First of all, to screw new journalists’ work ethics and lives in general, you as an employer have to put too much pressure on these budding journos. Put the pressure with no mercy AT ALL.

Calacanis points out that more than 75% of the new generation of journalists out there are under pressure. Geez, he’s wrong in that almost all journalists are always under pressure, so are the churnalists (you know what churnalism means, I suppose). Pressure free is almost always impossible, except if a journalist writes for sheer fun. Yet, I agree with his idea that new journalists are now even more and more miserable under the inhumane demand of their employers.

“We know that a simple headline, factually correct, factually stated, accurate, does NOT drive traffic. But deception, lying, playing with words, bending the truth raises the number of tweets. What’s the impact on active journalism? Is this sending us in the wrong direction?!!” he questioned.

Another thing to make these new journalists screwed is leave them work days and nights without mentors. By mentors, I mean people who have the know-how, real experiences and time and resources to share with these poor young journalists.

Next, once they have no appropriate mentors, you can also strip them off their editorial assistance. That means they’re allowed to publish whatever they want to publish without any substantial copy editing done and rigorous fact checking the way old school journalists used to do.

Also, you have to push them. Like really really PUSH them to publish MORE content FASTER than their predecessors and at the same time remind them of maintaining VERY HIGH quality standard of journalism. Calacanis said they all are “a recipe for disaster”.

That way, if our new journalists make mistakes, offend people, or spread bogus news all over the world, they have no choice but take the blame.

That said, a mini apocalypse is on the way. To say the least, maybe democracy is falling apart.

But who cares?

(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Digital Free Tools Millenial Journalists Ought to Use More

Author cum journalist Allen Salkin at his writing desk. (Image credit: Wikimedia)
Author cum journalist Allen Salkin at his writing desk. (Image credit: Wikimedia)

There’s no reason a millenial journalist must stick to the old, inefficient ways of gathering information just like the baby-boomers journalists. Ren LaForme of Poynter Institute leaked some digital free tools we journos should use more often to let our work much easier than ever.

  1. Geofeedia.com: It enables us find given locations and grab digital information uploaded to the social media services from locations in question. You may also set a certain time bracket here. Cool, right
  2. Storehouse: The platform makes combining photos, text and videos more hassle-free.
  3. Timeline.js: It creates a timeline which doesn’t take you to be a geek like Edward Snowden.
  4. Storymap.js: The service lets you follow streams of information in certain locations.
  5. Snapchat: You’ll like it if you have to reach younger audience aged 15 or even under.
  6. Hyperlapse: Forget that notebook and pen. Use your smartphone with Hyperlapse installed on it.. Recording videos now becomes way easier. There’s algorithm to reduce shake as well.
  7. Tabula: The open source tool helps you extract precious data to a newsworthy document.
  8. Import.io: This tool can do you charm with the ability of turning information on the web into a chart as requested. Wonderfully executed, indeed.

Now that 2015 just began, it’s time to embrace these digital tools you’ve hardly used to impress your audience with speed and accuracy at an equal balance.

To Be a Good Entrepreneurship Reporter, Don't Be an Entrepreneur

So here’s the rule of thumb for entrepreneurship and business reporters out there: Don’t be the person you want to interview and write about. In other words, don’t be an entrepreneur or business person. This piece of advice sounds a little bit counter-intuitive as I thought it’d be much easier to understand the subject matters by being in their shoes, seeing things the way these people do so I can write better about them and their companies.

It turns out I’m wrong…

Reporters need to stay away from being an entrepreneur themselves. They can’t be a top-notch reporter and a great entrepreneur at the very same time. They have to relinquish one of the two.

That’s probably the gist of Sarah Lacy’s statements. The founder of media company Pando.com was asked whether being an entrepreneur herself changed her way of writing as a tech reporter. As we all know, Lacy has worked for almost 15 years writing about the tech industry, the people and the whole dynamics in it. She answered it bluntly,”I’m a way worse reporter now…”

Asking hard questions to other entrepreneurs as an entrepreneur cum reporter is relatively easy, claimed Lacy. Yet, she stated that what bothered her to do her best job she always wanted is the OVEREMPATHY on the answers. “So particularly when it comes to things I’ve gone through…like having the ousted board member (she might be reminded of Mike Arrington ousted from TechCrunch or?) or even like a cash crunch or hiring a sales guy that didn’t work out[…]”

She further said she didn’t write as much as she used to and she felt for these pitiful entrepreneurs. “Because I see every side to it and I feel for them,”explained the mother of two.

Thank God, I’m not an entrepreneur because if I have to be one, I would certainly lose my best job ever. And I would never trade being a writer to any job on earth. This is very much the best. At least for now.

A Journalist who Hardly Ever Types

keyboardI know a boy who works as a journalist. He hardly ever types. He just copies and pastes but he is such a gem to his boss because his articles get lots of hits, page views. “Screw quality!”, he once said to me. It’s only about how many page views you can make and please your boss as much and long as you can and things are going fine. Bonus keeps coming to you so why bother typing all day long like me? It’s pretty much the message he has tried to send across.

Of course, he is such an object to envy. He can enjoy the perks of being an employee without having to work hard that much. Never that much. While I have to work hard for it.

It doesn’t matter how he sucked at the quality, it never bothers the boss. As long as the site rank is stable and showing positive trend, he is safe. Good for him.

Bad for his future…

Reporters Need 'Space' (read: Freedom)

keyboardFreeing your reporters to do really good works is DOABLE. Making them write 1-2 stories (with the best quality of journalism they can possibly provide readers) is one of the tricks. Don’t require them write 6-10 stories or even 10-15 stories a day (assume they work 8 hours a day, as they have their personal lives as well). It is not I who says so but Sarah Lacy, the founder of tech blog Pando.com.

I’m not stunned. She made a point. Quality, not quantity, is what she and her team are after so it does make sense for them to do so. A reporter cannot produce a piece of high quality journalistic content within less than an hour. That’s fucking crazy. Except the reporters only need to rewrite or repurpose or ‘repackage’ or summarize various articles from several sources scattered randomly on the web. It’s fun. They only sit at the office and never get out.

She further claimed that even a junior reporter aged 19 (I guess it is Nathaniel Mott she was talking about) was able to write a complex article which was she thought interesting and showed high quality in tech journalism that Lacy complained about to be flooded with press releases rewriting and copy pasting to be the fastest news breaker recorded on TechMeme Leaderboard.

She takes journalism really seriously, and that’s ridiculously awesome. At least to me. I don’t know it is to you.