Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Citizen Journalism Fires the Writer in Me

A first year reflection of a homemaker turned citizen reporter

Published 2008-03-07 11:29 (KST)

In February last year, a friend had uploaded an article about our long term friendship in, a citizen journalism Web site in Indonesia. It was her way to show her affection on Valentine. She urged her friends to read the article. That was my first encounter to a citizen journalism Web site.

My friend works for that citizen journalism Web site, and asked me to write for the Web site. In the beginning I did it only to please her. Yet, readers' comments and our interactive communication made me produced more articles than I've ever written as a freelance writer.

Gathering with some of's contributors in Jakarta.
©2008 Aulia Halimatussadiah

I was always fascinated by journalistic work. I like writing, but I do not think I am the kind of a novelist writer. Since my young days I've written a lot of stories or poems but never feel that they were good enough to be published. I'd rather send reader's letters than sending my own writing.

Being the only daughter in the family gave me a special place. My little brothers accused me being the apple of my father's eye. Yet, I felt like I was not free to chase my own passion. I once read research that the first born is more obedient and more responsible than the other siblings, I think the research is not wrong. I would not let my parents down. I did things that would please them.

My childhood was a burden for my parents because I had health problems which made them protect me even more. My brothers have got more freedom. Two of them were passionate in photography, and they did enter journalism when they were still in High School. I helped them arrange their articles reporting music performances, yet I also envied their luck as I was the one who introduced them to write for that youth magazine.

I did not like Chemistry, I preferred History than Chemistry, but I did enter Science Classes in my Senior High to please my parents. I had to struggle toughly. I had to leave marching band, an activity I was fond of since I was a junior high student to be able to get passing marks for Chemistry.

University gave me more freedom. Although Architecture was a subject chosen by my mother for me, it turned out that I like the environment. It provoked the lateral thinking in me. The free time between classes also gave me more free time to be the part of some organizations. It was my first real encounter with journalism. I was active in producing some students' publication. I also had my basic journalism knowledge through senior journalists who came to teach those involved in the university's journal.

I was actually thinking about working in journalism when I graduated as an architect. But I did not want to throw away my five years training as an architect without trying to be an architect. So I did not take the chance given by a technology magazine to fill in their need for a reporter.

Once I produced an article for an architectural magazine. For that series of pictures and article I had a very small amount compared to those earned by my brother for his picture. I felt used, so I stopped contributing. Working as an architect was more rewarding. Yet, I forgot about passion in our work.

Committing myself as a homemaker had cut almost all of my personal activities. Homework as a homemaker was not an easy task for me. I think working in an office is easier than the 24-hour commitment to my spouse and my children.

In the recent years I've also contribute some writings for the mainstream media, but there were more pieces rejected than published. Sometimes I saw that the mainstream media take up the similar subject later on. I do understand that, people tended to hear opinion from someone connected in some social organization or academic organization than listening to a mere housewife.

Having citizen journalism Web site is like having a place to voice out our concern as a citizen, concern about subjects that were not widely covered by the media, either of their space limitation or by their company's policy. It is also nice for a homemaker like me who like to write. Instead of being rejected, I can have my voice heard and the mainstream media can also gather more information on the subject and present us the better and more enriching articles.

The author (second from left) meeting Mr. Oh Yeon-ho (second from right) and new friends from the global world in Seoul, 2007.

I joined OhmyNews on March last year. I did it because a professional journalist wrote in his daily that accepted stories from citizens and their editorial is not as tough as the real newspaper's editorial. At the same time one of my articles was already in a daily's editorial for quite some time without any news. I rewrite the article and send it to OhmyNews. I thought OhmyNews International is credible enough to train me into the real global journalism standard. Now, it's been a year already. I am now struggling to balance my life. The passion I've got from citizen journalism Web sites is greater than my "should be" passion as a homemaker.

My journey to Seoul to attend the OhmyNews International Citizen Reporters' Forum in 2007 has also enriched my friendship in the global world. It has also enhanced my self confidence in being a citizen reporter.

There is no special parking lot for journalists in Indonesia. But if there is a special treatment, I think I will share the same doubt Han Na-young described in her speech for the international Forum titled "My Long Day in Virginia Tech". I share the same feeling felt by Kim Hye Won in introducing myself as a journalist. That is why I prefer using the term citizen reporter than citizen journalist, or most of the time as a citizen who likes to write. Yet, it is nice to have an "institution" to fill in when I need to interview somebody or to attend serious seminars. Being only citizen sometimes is not enough to give us a chance to ask for an explanation or verification on certain matter.

I enjoy being a citizen reporter, actually it fires the writer in me, it helps me dig deeper into me, and also helps me to see more colors of the global world. Another important thing, it also helps me to realize our part of contribution to the world and to act more professional in any steps I make... even if it is being a housewife!


mer said...

i enjoy reading this reflection. i think your story is a testimony how writing can be a powerful form of empowerment!


Retty N. Hakim said...

Thank you Mer,
Writing is always a way to help us reflect back and move forward...that's why I keep a diary.

Yet, a diary in the cyberspace is something new for me. While I do not like people peeking into my personal diary (notebooks), I do like to have an interactive communication through this online diary. That is why I'll keep this blog as a diary for a citizen reporter, I will try to be objective in voicing my opinion...something that we don't usually do in a diary.