Fri, 25 Apr 2003

Once upon a time for a young reporter

Binny Buchori, Activist, Jakarta

It was April 1983, I had just resigned from my job as a junior editor in a publishing company and was looking for a new job. Danny Yatim, an old friend from university, told me that his sister, Debra, had just joined an English newspaper, The Jakarta Post, that was going to be published very soon and that the paper may need some staff, maybe a librarian.

Danny asked me to give him my CV. I did, explaining in the CV that I had some library experience. A few days later Debra called me and informed me that I could have a walk-in interview, and she said I could apply for the position of reporter since the library post was already filled.

So, one afternoon I went to The Jakarta Post, its office located in such a very simple building that you could easily miss it. Debra met me, and told me to wait for the managing editor, Amir Daud. After quite a while, Pak Amir called me.

He looked at me carefully, put his reading glasses down and fired off a string of questions: "Are you sure you want to be a journalist? Do you realize that you will have very little time of your own? This is after 6 p.m., and do you see Debra over there? She is still typing? Are you ready for this kind of life?"

I looked into his eyes, and replied: "I've always dreamed of working in the media, but I do not know how and where to start. I will need guidance, but I am willing to work hard and learn."

He smiled and asked me to translate an opinion article from Kompas and a news piece into English. Pak Amir asked me to come again the following morning for an interview with the publisher, Mohammad Chudori. Pak Chudori asked some questions about my student life and the topics of my thesis.

Then and there, my career as a journalist started.

It was not easy -- there were long hours, little guidance and many uncertainties. There were anxious days when we knew there were not enough ads coming in, and there were hours spent subediting the news from the telex.

But it was also a very precious moment in my life. It is the work at the Post that led me to encounter the world, political life, and most of all, taught me never to give up, to be persistent in my work.

Now, 20 years later, my relationship with the Post has changed. Every morning I look at the paper very proudly and feel relieved that we have a newspaper that consciously broadcasts alternative views on such issues as politics, the economy, human rights and gender. It is a paper that is giving a voice to the voiceless with the belief they should be heard.

(The writer is is Executive Secretary, International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)