Saturday, 20 November 2010

My "me time" in blogging

Every mother should have a "me time" to keep themselves strong enough to do their daily routines. At least, I need that "me time". My usual "me time" is reading, but after I found the world of blogging then I made blogging and blogwalking as my top list of my "me time".

I was afraid of being addicted, so I tried hard to balance my life. I know that real life is more important than my cyber world. Yet, being a netizen gave me a larger horizon. I can meet people that I wouldn't probably meet in my daily life as a housewife. We don't really need any schedule to meet. With three boys and their various activities I'm the least ideal person to meet at a certain schedule. Blogging can help me knocking at any friends' door without interrupting her/his activity, without even thinking about the hours (imagine if I call my friend at would she react? Or, how would her spouse react?)

Recently I was thinking about my reason in blogging. As I entered blogging from citizen journalism websites, I used to think that I blog as a contribution from me (as a housewife) to my country. I'm not forgetting that I'm raising my boys (and help teaching some more kids), but I feel that I should do more. Yet, time is my barrier. I can't do all my activities in the same working hours. Blogging gave me that time...

Yet, blogging as a citizen reporter wasn't as fun as blogging just as a blogger. I've got to think carefully before pressing my finger to publish a story. When I found an old friend's blog, I can feel how much she enjoyed being a blogger. Being just a blogger (and posted personal stories) doesn't mean that she didn't share knowledge. She did it even more successful than a featured story in the magazine. I've always been fond about Japan but I found more knowledge on Japanese culture (and books...I won't be able to know more than just the story of Momotaro) if I didn't read her blog.

The conversation about citizen journalism usually made me avoiding personal stories. The critics said that bloggers can only post opinion, personal stories, etc. In my process of blogging I can't avoid being personal. As a citizen without a real journalistic background (except for those short time in the University), I came with the eyes of a citizen. Sometimes a small stuff that I posted made me ventured more into a personal story. When I wrote about my great aunt (actually I prefer to call her "Oma" or grandmother) in this blogpost, I was never thinking about meeting Ibu Claudine Salmon. The internet is amazing. My meeting with Ibu Claudine reminded me how powerful a writing is. Imagine...who knows my grandma? I don't think many people know her, not even Ibu Claudine. But she did have a remarkable information on Oma Nora's articles. I wasn't success in convincing my family about the continuation of Oma Nora's bibliography. I was even labeled "fake journalist" by my own mother in front of my big family. If I was a bit optimistic at the beginning, now I stopped talking about it (or doing anything about it). This is also the reason I became very sensitive in using the term citizen reporter over the term citizen journalist. It's better in Bahasa Indonesia as we have very different translation, "pewarta warga" and "wartawan". Journalist or wartawan referring to occupation, while "pewarta" has wider aspects which in general means those who deliver news.

These several last months I was stuck in blogging, mostly because I need more time to balance my work at home, at school, and in the community. I've also got problems with my internet connection (sometimes it's surprising if we count how expensive the internet for middle to lower financial income. A student without internet connection at home will spend more money in the internet kiosk than for us who have computer, modem, and unlimited internet package).

It seems that the need to manage time in blogging is universal. I was blogwalking to a blog that has a unique name "Mommy of a Monster (I Mean Toddler) & Infant Twins", and read this post. I have a teenage and two "little monsters" (I mean twins...and please imagine the monsters in Disney's monsters inc.), I'd like to peek into a life of a mother with three under three years old children. I can't imagine myself blogging in her situation. When I had my twins, my eldest son was already four years old...and I don't even have time to make their photo scrapbook. It's so comforting that there are other people who are also trying to balance their being in the internet with their real life.

I've also found this other blog (thanks to this blog...the links within the blogosphere is really unlimited!). I like one statement in this blog: "No one is paying me to write, I write because I enjoy it. I no longer enjoyed it when it became like a job and I felt guilty for not doing so." So, when I wrote for citizen journalism websites I did it because I like it, because I want to share something. That was why writing for Ohmy News International (OMNI) was a bit hard for its deadline. Writing with a journalistic concern in mind is a bit harder. But I also realized that citizen need a kind of guidance to be able to produce quality news in this era of the internet. I've learned a lot from OMNI. In a national seminar on citizen journalism organized by the Indonesia Open University, I also mentioned the need of educating citizens to write. We have layers of citizen journalism, and we have to know where we should put ourselves. Indonesia is a very big country, but we are still learning to live in democracy.

So, as I'm entering the last few months of my four years of blogging (which is actually a rookie for those who blog earlier) I'm going to learn how to blog in my own style. I won't care if it's a bit more personal than journalistic, or it's too journalistic and serious than a personal diary. You're welcome to come, visit and read a part of me. You're also most welcome to give your comments and critics to improve my's my "me time" and I'd like to have fun with it, enjoying it as the way I enjoyed it when I was first starting this activity. I won't be apologizing for not writing if I don't really have time to do it. Thanks to the blogosphere, now I've got more varieties of "me time", and I hope I can have more friends from my neighbourhood in the blogosphere. Let's enjoy our "me time" together...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Obama, the Euphoria

Actually I was a bit skeptic about Obama's plan to visit Indonesia. After the prior cancellations, I wouldn't be too surprised if he cancel it again this time. The Mount Merapi volcanic ashes and the hot cloud could also be a good reason to cancel it. I had news about the preparation in the University of Indonesia (UI) from my Facebook wall. A friend who works in the University of Indonesia posted her comments about the preparation. Yet, I smiled and asked her to be prepared for the cancellation. We were also asked her to take Obama's picture if he did visit the university. It turned out that she was not invited to the event.

I didn't get any invitation myself, but I was too busy to care about being invited or not. I was still preparing the speech for the Open University about the future of citizen journalism. I'm usually not able to attend events on weekdays as I'm more into my household commitments. Yet, the most important thing is perhaps the skeptical thought about the realization of his visit to this archipelago. It was not only one cancellation, but also another cancellation in June. Will he really come this November? With the earthquake in Wasior, the tsunami in Mentawai, and the volcano eruption in Central Java? Another reason to cancel his trip is the demonstration of protest against his coming. In my logical thinking I decided that he would cancel it again, but deep in my heart I hope he will come. A friend in need is a friend indeed, his coming here will show the world that the eruption isn't that dangerous for traveling. Indonesia has got more than 17,000 islands to visit. Tourism is one source of income for small traders in Indonesia. Without visitors they won't have income. Jogjakarta's biggest lost after the eruption would be the decline of visitors. Borobudur is now covered with ashes, as one printed newspaper said that Merapi made those statues wept.

It seems that some of my fellow bloggers were lucky enough to get the invitation to attend the open speech in the University of Indonesia. One of them is Ndoro Kakung, the pen name from Wicaksono, a senior professional journalist who share it in his blog, Pecas Ndahe. They were even luckier as they have the front seats which was really unusual for the Indonesians. They sat in front of other well known senior citizens such as the former President Habibie.

Another blogger was in Singapore when he knew that he was invited to the speech. He needed to call the embassy to make sure that he should pay his ticket cancellation fee to fly back to Indonesia for a good reason. Yes, doubt about another cancellation was really thick. Even in the United States my friend was also doubtful about the possibility of Obama's visit, especially when he was facing a hard time in his own country...he's got a downfall popularity and lost his voters. Luckily, this time he moved ahead with his plan.

I was surprised that he really came. I couldn't watch the television as I was taking my kids to their language course. Most of Indonesians were glued in front of their television to see his arrival, but I kept myself informed through my facebook. For some people, including my husband, his arrival meant a bad traffic jam. They were stranded as the streets were blocked for security. For some others, who were lucky enough to have the empty streets opened for them, they thanked Obama as they had never had the chance to feel Jakarta without traffic jam (except in Lebaran/Eid holidays).

It was embarassing that we weren't ready to receive the Austrian President while we knew that we're going to have two important visitors that afternoon.

I've missed one big news as I was preparing the presentation for the Open University National Seminar on citizen journalism. I came to it when I listened to a young girl, clad in her veil, who mentioned it in the seminar. It is about one of the minister who claimed that he wasn't going to shake hand with the first lady, Michelle Obama. I have friends who wouldn't shake hands with women, but they will show it clearly and it wouldn't need a clever girl to understand that they won't shake hands. We do have our beautiful culture of presenting both hands clapped in front of our chest, far away from the other person. It could be the sign to honor your guest without the need of touching, and I think others will understand this sign...even if they aren't familiar with this culture. That minister was perhaps in the euphoria of meeting an important person, and was carried in. Why blaming someone else? It just made him a fool in the eyes of the big crowds...from the cyber space into the real world. Even a friend from Europe asked me through FB chatting about this fast the news traveled in this cyber space!

Obama didn't have the chance to visit his old school, neither did he manage to have a reunion with his old classmates and teachers (who, according to TIME, will receive him with unreserved welcome). But he did give an inspiring speech, reminding Indonesians of how rich we are, and how important the unity in diversity for us. Do we really need a charismatic Obama to tell us that? To awaken our nationality? I don't need to be in the crowd with the euphoria of his visit to recognize our golden key to success. But I thanked Obama to help reminding Indonesian people about the foundation of the building of this Republic, the foundation that was helped built by our national heroes.

Picture: thanks to Yoris who gave me the permission to use this picture in my blog.

Will Citizen Journalism Die?

I had a chance to join as a speaker for the national seminar on citizen journalism in Universitas Terbuka (the Indonesia Open University) in early November. The most interesting topic for me is the future of citizen journalism. My paper titled "Will Citizen Journalism Die?" I wrote that paper in October 2010. OhmyNews International was already changed its face by launching its new blog in September 2010.

I can't erase from my mind a statement forwarded by Vincent Maher in 2005, "Citizen Journalism is Dead". That's why I wrote my paper in a title that might sound very pessimistic. Actually I'm not pessimistic about the future of citizen journalism. Voices of citizens are heard now, number of blogs are growing up, social media gave wider alternative to share news. But, the existence of citizen journalism websites seemed at stake as the leading brand of citizen journalism website OhmyNews closed its international section.

I reminded the audience about the high potential of Indonesian citizen to gain their power of voices. This diagram below shows how different the number of internet users in Asia if we see it through the number of internet penetration within the citizen. In the last ten years, the growth of internet penetration in Indonesia is 1,400% while in South Korea it's only 17.1%. As the statistic shown, Indonesia has only 12.3% internet penetration while in South Korea it is already 81.1% internet penetration. Imagine that we can still expect a huge growth of netizen voices in Indonesia. This is actually the same thing (with current data of growth) that I wrote in my first article for OhmyNews International "Indonesia Citizen Journalism on the Rise".

It was a process of how I prefer the use of the word 'reporter' over 'journalist', or even 'blogger' than 'reporter'. Yet, at the same time the word 'reporter' also bring a sense of responsibility over written facts. As a blogger I can choose to see things only through my eyes, but as a reporter I need to enlarge my point of views to see other possibilities. It's true that every citizen is a reporter, no matter how short or how simple the report, it can help to verify the fact. Being a homemaker is already time consuming, writing for citizen journalism websites is my way of contributing myself for my country. In a more global view, it is also my way to build a better world (Read my articles after the International Citizen Reporters' Forum: Toward a Better World, and Citizen Journalism Looks to a Better World)

It is important to make people we know through the cyber space be seen as real. Get to know each other in a real meeting is very important. From the local citizen journalism meetings to the international forum, meeting new friends made us build more communication. It helps us to spare time to visit their articles, blog, or just to say "hi" in their social media's wall. It's also working for other institution to reach out for the citizen. The picture below show visiting the Indonesian navy.

While building a closer community as a nation, we are also building our way to communicate in a more democratic way.

The new media is about rapidity. You can have the same moment captured and aired almost instantly. Learning from OhmyNews International, I knew that it's not as easy as that. New Media will also need indepth reportage to make people interested in reading their news. Mainstream media in Indonesia also came into citizen journalism progress, they made their own citizen journalism outlet. Kompas has Kompasiana, Koran Tempo has Politikana, and recently the Jakarta Post also has i.m.o.. Being a public blog or a citizen journalism website seems not really important for public.

Actually, since 2009 in Indonesia we can feel that social media like facebook and twitter also took the interest of people to express their voices online in quite a big percentage. Indonesian people who has a better oral tradition than written one seemed that social media is an easier way to air their voices. That is why I wrote my article for 'A note from a citizen reporter: Do we still need citizen journalism?' This thought came out two years after my visiting Seoul as a citizen reporter.

In the same year, Indonesia had the case of Prita Mulyasari. She was brought to the court for writing her complain letter about the service of a hospital and its medical team online. This case brought lots of articles from contributors. We can clearly see how people perceived one problem from different angles. I noted that the letter published unedited has different tone with the one published through edited website. The aim of a citizen to publish such a letter was usually to let others take precaution. There were also the possibility that prior complain wasn't answered properly, or not even answered at all. The solidarity came out for Prita came from all directions. Social media, mainstream media, electronic media are all helping citizen to gather their voices, and at the same time gather Coins for Prita. (Read also From a cyber letter into a real prison, Free Prita Mulyasari, Prita is Free...Are We?, and Prita will not be free anymore?). Citizen need to learn about the ethical code and law in uploading their thoughts too.

So, Vincent Maher's points in his Ethics, Epistemology, and Economy also reasonable. Yet, I don't think that it will kill citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is a growing up, evolving, and will still alive as long as it serve its reason to exist: to bring good deeds for citizen. We can help it grow by contributing with our conscience.

The economic stand is one reason for our meeting in Seoul in 2007. It seems that the business model is unsolved yet. In a personal conversation between meetings, Dan Gillmor said that it will be an experiment to go through. The experiment can shut citizen journalism websites, but lesson learned from that experience is already gained.

What is important is now people realized that they aren't just a consumer of news, they are also producer of news. It is obvious in this picture taken from Pesta Blogger 2008, a national bloggers gathering in Indonesia.

So, will citizen journalism die? No, as long as we keep the spirit high!