National Press Day: Indonesian Journalists Need More Protection

I don’t know if you agree or not, but a blogger is also a journalist in some way. S/he is sometimes more opinionated than a journalist is allowed to be and that what makes him/ her unique and more humane than a journalist.

In reality, the profession of writer and blogger and journalist more often than not overlap each other. In my case, that is also the case.

This year in Indonesia, we still see some unsolved cases of journalist murders in the country. As reported by, there are still ten major cases of Indonesian journo murders, i.e. Herliyanto, Ardiansyah Matra’is Wibisono, Naimullah, Alfrets Mirulewan, Agus Mulyawan, Fuad M. Syarifudin (Udin), Ersa Siregar, Muhammad Jamaluddin, AA Narendra Prabangsa, and Ridwan Salamun. I am not going into the details on how these journalists got murdered but murders are still murders regardless of the methods.

The recent news that made headline today is that the president of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo has revoked the remission of Susrama, who has been convicted as the murder of AA Narendra Prabangsa. This definitely a major victory on the side of press activitsts. However, it is never enough as there are still many other homicide cases involving journalists in Indonesia that have gone unsolved for years and even decades! The murderer of Udin (Bernas Yogya Daily journalist in Yogyakarta) in 1996 has never been perfectly solved. And this is I guess one of the most monumental cases of journo murders in the country.

Murder is not the only type of crime that can happen against a journalist here. One can also experience violence. Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) or Independent Journalist Alliance, one of the most progressive journalist organizations in Indonesia, recorded that the recent development of Indonesian press in 2018 was not quite bright. The data that AJI gathered showed that there are at least 64 violence cases involving journalists here. They were expelled, terrorized, physically beaten (or slapped), or sent to jail because of their pieces.

Journalists are now even expected to be more cautious than ever before as a new modus operandi emerges in Indonesia: doxing. It’s simply defined as an online form of persecution, in which people who hate the work of a certain journalist can just hunt him or her for any private details and then unravel them to the public to be judged. Horrible and disgusting on so many levels.




Investigative Journalism as the Future of Print Media

QUALITY JOURNALISM HAS not ended. It still survives despite the collapse of print media. Churnalists – pseudojournalists who sit and type like crazy in their comfortable cubicles days and nights until their backs ache and eyes redden- certainly always win the war of pageviews but it is journalists who work hard out there in field, in reality, to gather materials, write reports from scratch, and bear the risks of getting injured or harmed in the process.

When hoax and biased news run rampant like nowadays both in Indonesia and the world, pessimissm reigns, questioning whether our press organizations will eventually perish or survive the hardship.

I myself srongly believe that quality journalism will be still around after I met with Amarzan Loebis, an Indonesia senior journalist who opened up from A to Z about Investigative Journalism (from now on abbreviated as IJ).

Linguistically, the phrase IJ was derived from a Latin phrase ‘diurna vestigium’, meaning that it’s a sort of journalism which tracks down trails. IJ is notorius for its chaos-making nature. It’s meant to wake people up and open their eyes after reading.

IJ is obviously not intended for every newcomer. One must be patiently working his or her way up to the ladder. Bit by bit. “Experience is everything,” he emphasized. It therefore doesn’t matter much that one is from an outstanding academic background or certified as a journalist in an official journalism institution. What matters most is whether one has been doing the work for quite a long time well or not. Because according to Amran, in journalism seniority is determined by means of depth and maturity. “It’s not about one’s tenure in a certain position or post,” added Loebis. It’s definitely a hands-on kind of profession.

Some think Investigative Reporting and In-depth Reporting are two same things. But in fact, if we care to observe more, the two are dissimilar. Loebis pointed out this confusing misconception does exist. “In-depth Reporting springs out of curiosity,” he explained. A journalist writes an in-depth report in order to describe something, an important issue for public to learn and criticize.

Meanwhile, Investigative Reporting starts from suspicion. A journalist works with an investigative reporting method to expose something hidden, an issue that is not obvious or unknown by public but very crucial to the betterment of the society and state. Its objective is greater than financial gains and fame.

In the US, IJ has emerged since 1902 amidst social changes. It proved able to help shape the social structure. Businesswise, it also helped the media tycoons make a lot of profits.

In 1920s, investigative journalism associations mushroomed in the US.The trend was even achieving a new height after a number investigative reports were rewritten and published as literary works/ novels. Repackaging investigative journalism works was a tactic to make it timeless and more consumable to wider audiences, crossing geographical boundaries.

Though it is possible to launch an investigative endeavor on one’s own, naturally IJ is conducted in teams. This holds true especially when journalists are after an issue at a grand scale or involving prominent figures and their cronies. An IJ team consists of not only seasoned journalists but also newcomers as their faces are much less recognizable to the public (because senior journalists are presumably have appeared so often in public, making foes recognize them more easily).

IJ may always be oriented to the West (read: the US and UK) but IJ in the East (Asia) has actually made its appearance. The thing is its development was not well documented, making it less probable to track down.

Loebis showed his optimism that even under the amounting threat of online news outlets, IJ never fades away and has its own place. It is somehow irreplacable.

He sees opportunities for IJ in the epoch of internet. “IJ can be a golden opportunity for old-school media organizations to outlive the public forecast [that they would die sooner or later],” he underscored.

I understand that IJ is so hard to execute that only very few journalists willingly and indefatigably dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth the hard way like this.

He likened IJ to ‘jihad’ or struggle. “IJ is a fighting journalism, which is born out of the spirit of resisting,” he defined. That said, those who work in this field have to be prepared for any possible risks.

“But thanks to the heavy and serious nature of IJ, most modern press accolades are intended for IJ works,” Loebis spoke.

It is no exaggeration, I suppose, when the jovial journalist concluded his talk by stating: “The future of Indonesia’s print media is IJ.” (*/)

Monetizing Your English Writing Skills

(Foto: Setyo Jojo)

A writer is a reader, listener and thinker who writes.” – Akhlis Purnomo

There’s nothing better than sharing your experience with all the people around you. When it comes to experience, even sharing what seems so trivial, no-brainer, basic and little to us may mean a lot and proves insightful and inspiring to others.  So I decided to also share this with you all on my blog.

The title of the piece itself was derived from a presentation title I served in the middle of November 2017 at the English Department, Universitas Jenderal Soedirman (Unsoed). The presentation brought some nostalgic ambiance, I have to admit, as it’s been a while since the last time I taught a bunch of young folks in a classroom and it gave me quite a shiver. My teaching days were over but the urge to share can’t fade that easily. It’s embedded permanently in my DNA. Which explains why no matter how hard I try to dissuade this urge, I fail again and again miserably.

The bedroom writer

Teaching was a career path I decided to abandon after I resolved writing is the best career for the future Akhlis. This started quietly in my bedroom in 2009. One night I started blogging (armed with a brand new laptop and a CDMA phone as the modem, which worked painfully slow).

At the time, blogging was a relatively new thing. And the more I wrote for my own blog, I found it more interesting day by day. It was because of the internet marketing opportunities which were and still are limitless. It was tempting for an introverted for me to be able to make money without even seeing too many people out there. Even networking is doable via social media and email.

The idea of becoming a professional blogger sparked on my mind and I thus began blogging soon after that. I browsed the entire web days and nights to learn how to make money from my blog. By then, all I knew was Darren Rowse (with his, Brian Clark (with his, Deborah Ng (with her, and some other professional bloggers from Anglosaxon countries (Australia, the States, or the UK). I bought their ebooks and got hooked by the offers of the ease of making money with websites and content, which I can produce on daily basis because I can write in English.

But my main problem was the connection speed. My hometown was not a place where the internet providers operated the best. Their quality of service sucked a lot. They existed but gave me more frustration more than convenience. Of course, I still could exchange emails (with lots of trial because the connection might be cut off in the process) but viewing images and videos was an ordeal still at the time.

And then I stumbled upon a great blog called It was clean, simple and interesting, with high quality content that I liked a lot (I recently visited the blog but sadly it wasn’t live any longer). I somehow managed to contact its owner. He was a Malaysian internet marketer named Yan Susanto, if I’m not mistaken. He confessed to have grown up in Tasikmalaya, some town in Western Java province but then his family made a move to Malaysia and since then never came back.

That year (2009), I learned a lot about internet marketing from Yan. We chatted a lot via email and I actively asked him about the nuts and bolts of it. I suddenly found myself glued to my laptop days and nights. I wanted to buy a domain for my first personal blog (hosted by, a PayPal account, and a software. All was because I wanted to be like Yan. A financially-independent internet marketer.

In the course of that, one thing I realized was that I lacked technical skills. While it seemed that Yan was more skillful at it. His mastery of web development and SEO (search engine optimization) was impressive and I saw myself as ‘a little kid in the neighborhood’. I knew almost nothing. But Yan was willing to help me through this learning phase by giving me some guidance on how to make great quality content. He taught me on link building techniques, how to rewrite a piece of content so it looked fresh and new and unique, how to write a product review in English. He paid me as a contributor and helper of his SEO campaigns.

Things changed. From 2010 on, I launched my writing career by moving to Jakarta as an Indonesian-English translator and web content writer for an illustrious property company’s  web portal in the heart of Jakarta’s business district.  In the course of my writing career, I was given another new responsibility which was beyond my imagination. I had to see and talk to people. Real people this time. It was no people on screen just like what I did with Yan. Awesome. And from there I was officially appointed online reporter/ journalist in the company.

Along with that, I also began to learn more about social media. After I made content, the time had come for me to know how to market it on the web. So I  set up a convincing social media presence on Twitter and Facebook and Koprol (an Indonesian social media site which was then acquired by Yahoo). From time to time, I studied and practiced social media management and boy had it taught me a lot of things!

Another phase of my writing career was about to occur when in 2015 I ran into a friend working in the publishing industry. She wanted me to work with her on an English book writing project. We were working in tandem and tackling whatever issues together. I learned much from this writing gig. It was about the workflow, the researching, writing and editing process, all of which were quite different from the ones I’ve been familiar with in the web publishing industry. That was my first time to immerse myself in the book writing process.

Happening simultaneously was also the publishing of some of my pieces (columns and opinions) in the country’s big news portals (more on this, kindly go to my ‘portfolio’ article on this very blog) like and Whereas, also picked some of my pieces to be published on Koran Tempo (both are affiliated media under the same holding company).

Later on, I also managed to get published as a solo writer of my own content by working as a magazine writer. This was quite challenging because I had to be responsible for all the content of a certain edition. The content ranged from translation of English articles (as the magazine was part of global franchise network) and some authentic content I had to acquire (6 articles altogether). All these were my entire workloads to finish within only a couple of weeks (yes, two weeks only!). It was so tight a deadline.

Almost at the same time, I was also preparing another project on a different theme. This one was primarily concerned about social media.  It was rather tough as well as I had to be preparing three different sets of materials for three different government clients. In this project, I was the social media expert invited to share my 5-year experience in my previous company.

What a journey…

To the English Department students of Unsoed, I hurled a rethorical question of this.

What it takes to be a successful writer?

Here were my answers for them:

  • Passion: Passion is NOT overrated, as far as I’m concerned. It’s the fuel of your long long career journey. It’s the thing that enables you to stay on track when others start to give up, succumb and switch paths. It’s one thing in your very essence that enables you to be stubborn as you’re spearing ahead, laser-focusing your efforts towards one single career objective.
  • Discipline: This is one of the essential skills to have and nurture in a writer’s soul. Yes, writers are artists working with words but that doesn’t mean you can get lazy with your work. Set up your own schedule if you have no employer (act as your own employer!) and stick to it. And discipline makes you a better writer working in a team. Or else, you can be much hated because of your insanely awful attitude, believing you can only work when inspiration comes along. No, a professional writer doesn’t wait for inspiration. S/he builds one, instead.
  • Focus: You may be working at a cafe or office or your own bedroom. Space is no big deal as long as you can focus on your work and get it all done on time. There’s no use to splurge on an expensive beverage but you miss your deadline and enrage your editor after that.
  • Tenacity: Writers at times must be tenacious. Surely it feels like you’re banging your head onto the solid brick wall until you bleed and unconscious. But one really has to be that strong-willed to be a writer.
  • Carefulness: Select your words, punctuations, characters carefully as these may determine your success and failure.
  • Attention to details: Again, small things matter. Remember, small successes accumulate and build up your bigger successes. At least, that’s what I believe and really happened to me (though luck and serendipity also did contribute – in an unreliable amount though). Of course, some people argue that a few writers don’t pay attention to details that much and yet they achieve magnificent attainment but believe me, they must have something else to compensate for that ‘flaw’.

The perks of a writer

Speaking of perks of working as a writer, there’re myriad. And these are some of the best that I think you ought to consider.

Ultra flexibility

The best perk as a writer is the flexibility. For a free soul going after inspirations, there’s nothing better than being able to move around  or stay at a certain spot as you like (as long as you can immediately meet those deadlines). Most of the time, I don’t work at a given worksplace like any other employees or corporate workers. I can always choose to work anywhere I wish. But of course, there’re times when I need to go to a certain place to take part in a meeting with clients or teams I’m working with. Yet, these meetings can in fact happen anywhere. And as long as things are resolvable via email or online networking, we can set aside the idea of going out every single day. On a typical day of work, I can just wake up and work on my draft in my own bedroom if a day’s weather doesn’t seem so agreeable. As for me, I work at my own pace mostly and this makes me really happy. As long as deadlines are met perfectly and punctually and no client complains too much, I’m safe and sound working at a place of my choice. Being an office rat is something you no more have to endure during your productive years. You can still make money and go on with your journey.

Less social fuss

Not all writers are introverted. But most of them, I‘m sure, are. This is the first and foremost reason why I left my teaching job and resorted to writing in the first place. I can conveniently turn down any invitation to unnecessary in-person meetings and only meet people whom I feel important in project finalization.

While we have learned the brightest side of the profession, I also feel the necessity to inform you this.

The downsides of working as a writer

The price you have to pay for all the conveniences is quite high though.

Possibly long working hours

Writing – to most people out there – is likened  to typing. If you have fingers, eyes, paper, ink or something to type on and with, then chances are you can make money by writing. This is not quite right. There’re soft skills one has to acquire and master to really succeed at this realm of writing. Writing (read: the typing work) is actually easy and effortless, intellectually speaking. But what takes most time is the research (because you have to learn many topics and hence understand what you write and form your own proposition on all these subject matters). Rewriting one needs to do after writing because rewriting the first draft – which is usually awful, highly disorganized and thus hardly understandable to readers other than the writer herself – is inevitable unless a writer has hired and teamed up with a very very competent (and patient and kind-hearted and soft-mouthed) editor with much free time to lend a hand to perfect the draft.

The emotional turbulence

Emotion is also a noteworthy point. I mean the movement of your writing spirit may fluctuate from time to time. There’re ups and downs along the way. One day it can really overwhelm you until you can’t stop jotting down all the ideas on your mind. But there’re also days when ideas don’t flow as easily as usually. You drag yourself while writing, as if you were crossing through a desert as vast as Gobi and Sahara Desert combined.

Sedentary lifestyle

Another major issue I have to deal with as a writer is the sedentary lifestyle, which is destructive in the long run towards your wellbeing in general. Some writers find themselves gain weight more easily and as the writing career progressing, the worse their obesity issue is getting. I’m not going to preach about the peril of adopting the lifestyle of George R. R. Martin who needs to pay more attention to his ideal weight for the sake of his health or Lee Child who smokes and works till late at night and never feels remorse for that. In this aspect, I prefer adopting Haruki Murakami’s approach to the unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle of writers by breaking the vicious circle of disapproving habits such as smoking and eating junk foods on daily basis and setting up a daily discipline of resting and working which is in accordance with the circadian rhythm of our body (the natural rhythm of how our body works and takes rest). After a few years in his twenties running a night club, he realized it was impossible for him to keep up with the demand of writing if his lifestyle remained similar. He sold the club and quit waking up so late before noon and started to wake up and go to bed earlier than he used to. And guess what? He began regaining his health and productivity. And at the very same time, he shed all those extra fats by taking up running as his main workout regime. He succeeded after all. Thank God, yoga came along and since the very first time I gave yoga a try, I slowly but certainly reclaimed my long-lost physical health (and mostly strength and later, flexibility) and then my peace of mind (which is really essential because writing is an intellectual and cerebral toil). Meditation, which is one part of the yoga practice, proves to be quite useful to counterbalance the bad effects of perpetual mental work which I do during the writing process.

Let’s say you’re interested in this kind of career. You may ask:

What writing skills that are in high demand currently?”

Many. But in essence, there’re three of them:

1. Web content

2. Business writing

3. Creative writing

For all the hopefuls out there, learning how to write well may lead you to many career paths. It’s not confined to writing books or articles in magazines. Modern professions for writers among other things are:

Content writers (websites)

This is the entry-level job mostly opened for fresh graduates. But even if you’re still students, employers don’t mind your lack of work experience or academic credentials. A few of them are even opening jobs like this for high school or vocational school graduates. They just need – as it may seem – the ability of typing and arranging words in your mother tongue (obviously this is a simple and much less intellectually demanding job) and publish it every day. Grammar and punctuation and flow of ideas might not be a big deal here. The focus is getting messages across to audience. These are like sweat shop workers in the modern era. The difference is that they don’t produce cheap goods sold with super pricey price tags. Rather, they generate an enormous amount of content at a speed of light because readers must be attracted and then spoonfed with novel, fresh, easily digested, interesting and visually pleasant content that cater their reading taste (or what content publishers guess is their reading taste) as often as possible. This is because pageviews is the ultimate goal for most online media business owners. More pageviews, more visitors, more advertisers and hence more income. It’s all about bottomline. Profits and money.

Copywriters (media/ agencies)

Being more lucrative than the content writing industry, copywriting is quite challenging even for middle-level writers and veterans. This is because generating copies for companies need a long learning curve. The stamina and concentration must be maintained along the process because it’s very formal by nature (therefore there’s no excuse for fatal typos) and contains sensitive data and information to convey to their valued shareholders and stakeholders. What you need to bear in mind is how to bring positivity and good images to readers even when the real situation is far from positive. I’m not saying you act as a spin doctor here but you have to know how to convey facts without evoking undesired reactions from the market and public. When a company books an outstandingly high profit, you have to find words to convey the message humbly so your wordings don’t attract too much attention from ‘nosy’ bureaucracy. But on another occasion, when you see a company generating a very miserable sum of profit (and even in more pathetic cases, suffered from huge financial losses owing to massive frauds or scandals), you as a copywriter must figure out a way to pick words that won’t kill that company’s image once and for all but at the same time, you can’t lie and have to tell the truth to audience. That said, it takes so many skills for someone to master to become a fully-fledged, seasoned copywriter. Not to mention a particular style one has to adopt in the writing process, and the workflows which may vary from one business to another, and workloads which get stuffed mostly in the first semester of each year (January-May is the busiest period because most business entities are to issue their annual reports by the end of May or June). Copywriters though must also be able to work in team and present their ideas well in front of potential clients (so if you’re an abnormally shy and solitary type of person, this is a job offer to refuse to accept or else you can get some heart attack in public). Once clients say yes, copywriters can move on with elaboration of the proposal. It’s highly complicated and stressful but rewarding as well.

Journalists (press companies)

Working as a journalist is another alternative to capitalize on your English writing skills. In the epoch of hoax like (cough) these days, there’s no profession as much required as a professional journalist with moral and proper journalism ethics and good work ethos. Such a species is rare and hard to find. Public wants it so much (though they also still want to read hoax – in their subconscious mind). People need truth to be told as it really is. Hoax is not tolerable at any rate whenever we are dealt with a crucial public event that not only affects our private life but also a nation and the entire human race’s future, such as a presidential election (I don’t have to elaborate on this). And however hard we educate people on the significance of identifying a hoax-spreading media outlet, it’s fruitless without looking for and recruiting the right people. And great writers are also good journalists for their readers as well. Take a look at Ernest Hemingway who worked as a war journalist during the World War I before plunging himself into the literary world or Gillian Flynn who worked for a magazine as a reporter and writer prior to being sacked and launching her own fiction writing career.

PR officers (corporations/ brands)

It may sound odd at first for a writer to work as a PR officer. But companies – small and big – need people who are competent enough to play with words, to polish their images before the public. This sort of job requires you to be skillful at writing press releases, corporate newsletters, business correspondence, dealing with media workers (journalists).

Bloggers/ social media officers

As more and more people blog these days (but fail to be fully committed to regularly keeping their blogs as well), companies also need content to attract visitors to their websites. Blogs cheer up ‘dry’ and boring corporate websites with fresh and engaging content. Social media presence is also getting more priority recently. All of this requires a separate team or at least a couple of people to handle (depending on how seriously a company takes their image).


If you happen to know a lot of important and influential people with abundant ideas and great track records around you and they don’t have any books (print or electronic) to sell their ideas yet, you can help them do so by working as their ghostwriter. Let them know you can write and show them your portfolio (samples of your writing, which can be in the electronic or physical/ printed form). Once again, you may find your clients by chance as you tell people you’re a writer and simultaneously broaden your network. I canNOT stress more on the importance of having a wide network. It’s as important as your fingers to scribble and type.

Travel writers

Leisure economy is in the rise. Everyone is following the trend. Tourism growth is soaring. The majority of tourists is of course travelers who just take photos to publish on their Instagram feeds as they sightsee tourist attractions around the globe. But there’re also very few of them with some writing and photography  (and maybe videography) talent and seem very keen to capitalize on their traveling lifestyle. They succeed as influencers in this newly-invented domain. And you can also be one of them. The qualities of great travelwriters, as far as I know, are many but the most fundamental ones are details (meaning you need to take notes on almost every detail of a trip you take), consistency (you can’t succeed if you just post once and wish you’ll be famous overnight), and financial stability (most of tools to make a high quality travel writing piece are NOT cheap at all).

Fiction writers (novelists)

Fiction writing is of course lucrative – if you’re J. K. Rowling. I’m sorry to wake you up from this dream, but it doesn’t work that way AT FIRST. As a beginner in the fiction writing industry, you might have to expose yourselves to a lot of people out there and make as many works as you can to be known. And if you’re talented and lucky enough, someone will help you get a book deal which leads you to a publication. But it’s a long long process to undergo from anonimity to fame. No one knows the recipe or formula to be a successful novelist. What you can discover is only assumptions, clever guess or data-driven speculation (like this blogpost I wrote).

Practice 1 (15 minutes)

Find a news item, or pick an event that interests you. Using the ‘who, what, when, where, why’ of the item – and your imagination – rewrite it as a detailed, interesting narrative story consisting of around 300-400 words. Post it on your Facebook wall afterwards. See how people react to it. More reactions (likes and comments) may mean your writing is more successful to attract readers.

How to monetize your English writing skills

Finally, we arrive to this section! You’ve gone a long way. And I admit I’ve never written a blogpost this lengthy. Here’s the formula that I’ve extracted from my 8-year experience as a writer.

  1. Publish a blog and update regularly: This is even more important for novices. Because setting up a blog is relatively easy and cheap these days. If you have no money to spend on renting a domain and to host your own blog, why not setting up one on some popular free blogging platforms like or Or if you want more exposure and recognition, go to or Both are citizen journalism sites where you can upload your writing for free.
  2. Build a strong personal brand as a professional writer: Being a writer means you’re more careful with words and always attentive to your language. On social media, try to present yourselves as a thought leader or social media darling. I’m not saying you must be fake but instead of exposing your personal sides that don’t support your writing pursuit, try to reveal the writer side of yours to the world. After all, this is the best way to convince people that you’re seriously into writing.
  3. Write where the money is: At first, as a novice you can write for free but as you go along on your career path, writing for free should no longer be an option (unless you’re willing to). Give yourselves sometimes to get exposed and then be professional about your craft. Charging a certain amount of money for your hard work is not cruel because everybody DOES!
  4. Build networks with publishers, fellow writers, editors around the world: Facebook and Twitter can be a good start. But for more serious gigs and job offers, I recommend that you go to It’s more professional and you’re less likely to find any distractions like what you find in other social media.
  5. Find opportunities on the web: There’re a zillion of opportunities in the web if you’re willing to surf and believe me, you’ll never run out of writing gigs or job offers.

Practice 2 (15 minutes)

Write a 400-word blog post (the theme is up to you) on your own blog and promote it on your social media accounts. See how your friends or followers react to it.

To conclude the post, I’ll describe my typical daily writing process as follows:

  • Writing freely in a personal journal: A warmup ritual for me in the morning or at anytime I want to. Writing skills are like muscles. Use or lose them!
  • Reading/ observing anything, anyone I like (and don’t): Open your eyes, hear things, feel more, think more and take notes more.
  • Writing as a professional: This time of the day I work on my project.
  • Getting my behind off the chair: Work out even if you think you don’t have to. Writers must live long enough to write.
  • Hydrating: Drink more water or juice. No soda or softdrink, please.
  • Nourishing: Stuff yourselves with healthy foods and drinks. Snacks are okay but limited and occasional.
  • Taking a rest: Close your eyes and go to bed. Stop seeing computer screens if your eyes get uncomfortably dry.

Last but not least…

  • Fake it till you make it: Don’t lie but give impression that you’re serious and professional. And walk the talk.
  • You’re what you do: You’re called a writer because you write every single day in your life. Do it now!
  • Mind the deadlines: Never miss a deadline. But if you do have to, make sure you have a very very strong reason (such as maintaining the quality of result).
  • Reread and rewrite: Polish your works until they gleam with perfection.
  • Educate yourself: Read and read and read. Feed your thought with great quality stuff. Don’t read hoax! (*)

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.


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.
  • 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. 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. 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.