Journalist kryptonite

Efi Yanuar

What is the relationship between journalists and superheroes? What do Superman and Spiderman have in common? That’s right, they are both journalists. I never understood why these superheroes were journalists, of all professions. Since I studied journalism at college in Indonesia, I found out the reason.

My friends and I were indoctrinated with the thought that journalists carry out a noble profession. Why? We are delivering news, or as some say, the truth. We watch the government, you can’t do anything wrong or we are going to expose it. Why do we that? Because we work for people rights, the minority, those who suffered and et cetera.

Isn’t it cool to be a journalist? We carry the truth on our shoulders. We, journalists, are almighty. But are we really? If you ask me, I’ll say no. I started my profession as a journalist circa 2011. Young. Barely knowing anything. But, believe me, I don’t feel like I have superpowers at all. Why? We are surrounded with kryptonite. Our “green stones” are the very same companies that we are working for.

Couple of months ago, I heard shocking news from my friend. He and several colleagues of his were fired. My friend told me the details. They started to complain about salary cuts ranging from 5% to 20%. Management argued that action should be done to keep the company running. Not just that, these journalists found out that they won’t have any health insurance and pension anymore either as that has been cut from their salary as well. The same fate united them. To make their voice heard, a workers union was born. They asked for their rights.

From my point of view, what they did was right. These guys are good journalists. They aren’t just anybody, and they didn’t deserve what their company did to them. It is pathetic. At some point, these people who always “fight” for the labour rights of others, often people they don’t even know personally, are now the ones who need someone to fight for them. They write with a mission that “every labourer should get paid well”.

But, when it happens to themselves, who fights for them? Nobody. As we live in a modern era, you can’t seal peoples mouth’s. Look what happened to Aung San Suu Kyi, she lived with an invisible seal on her mouth. Journalists spoke for her rights the entire time. But, when it happens to journalists who will stand up for their rights? Well, if the government seals the mouths of journalists, other journalists will help. But, it wont be the same when the media seals its journalist mouth.

It happened with my friend. She felt something was not right with her news division management. She stated her opinion. Anyone can guess what happened to her? The company “tortured” her with moving her to a much less important compartment. To me, it shows that her company doesn’t want to hear any criticism even if it is constructive criticism. I don’t see the fruits of freedom of speech in a media landscape like this.

There is one last story that I want to share with you. Nowadays we can’t avoid media convergation. Let me explain. One holding company can have papers, television channels, radio, news wire, and are the content media provider. What I learned from uni was this kind of practice is very undesirable. It is as if all news is being controlled by one party, either the owner of the holding company or the editor in chief itself. All I believe is citizens have the right to have varied sources of information.

I am not going to talk about how this converged media will affects the readers, viewers, audience and all. Again it is about how media companies treat their reporters/employees. In order to cut the budget, sometimes they just hire some reporters to fill, say, two to three different news paper. Yes, they are sharing the news. And the sad thing about sharing news is, if Paper A has an exclusive news, its sister, paper B, can copy and publish it the next day. So, paper B has their news one day late. Isn’t there is NEW in NEWs?

One of my friend said, “I am kind of ashamed to copy and rewrite story from my so-called-sister-paper. I want to make my own story.” Is this the sound of weakness inside a superhero? Yes it is.

Those are few things I face in daily life. It might not represent Indonesian media as a whole, but this is how I experience it. So, how are media companies in your country run? Keen to share your perspective?

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