I texted my mom not long ago. “Mom, can you even imagine, that maybe my life on this earth is really close to an end?”
I was slightly depressed at that moment. It was 2 AM. I didn’t plan to take my own life. But I was just struck by a huge sadness and it became a sort of hunch that my death possibly will come soon enough.
Trashing myself is not a new thing for me. Despite having a more (or i guess, at least) stable job at the moment, it doesn’t stop me as a human to keep questioning my existence.
People going through every phase in their life. And they do not always have the answer for ‘who am I?’ at those every single stage. In some period of time, we learned the hard way ‘how-to’s and try our best for every new role given and constantly redefining our identity.
It is my 11th months living in Jakarta. Working as a ‘Journalist’, well it is the company who pinned that status on me. But I love the job. And later, that fondness mature into something of a bigger meaning.
“Am I deserving of this profession?” still, I kept self-doubting. Those self-doubt emerged maybe because a set of standard that I already had in mind about what’s an ideal journalist really is, about what makes someone a real journalist, what makes someone considered as a good journalist. Let me tell you why:
Honestly speaking, as someone who came from not so fancy socio-economic background, far from wealth and prestige family, to compete in Jakarta, where the hell those bravery and the will to venture comes from?
Something happened over time that leads me here. Personally, moving out to Jakarta actually is my form of ‘escaping’. My former stage of life was really mental-draining. Night, right before my departure to Jakarta, I was drowned in the uncomfortable fall of family issues, broken, a loner that struggle in seeking a stable job as I had been several months giving up studying Mathematics, the major I enrolled in University.
There, comes some facts: I don’t have a bachelor’s degree, let alone a degree in journalism, leaving home to the wilds Jakarta. The only thing that I knew is writing and journalism activity are not something that unfamiliar to me. So I applied for any job whichever still align with “writing” labor.
Basically I am a Writer. I love writing. My familiarity in journalism realm begin since I was in High School, and worked that way too when I was still in University. And my talent of words started to grow since then. Collecting and sharing words is such a satisfying and enjoyable work for me.
But good opportunity didn’t come easy as life have this kind of nature to always get your way around. Enough skill in English won’t even cut it. Long story short, when I finally got a job, I was really happy despite all the worries which still existed at that time. As the fear continue to make you stagger to your feet, you keep going, i told myself, you should not look back. And here I am.
Working in online media industry give me so many priceless lessons and insights. From experiencing different styles of writing, how to attract more viewers by picking the best (mostly manipulative) headline or heading, how to master clear thoughts process, how to precise and concise work process, to the point ‘despising’ the work-flow of online media industry in this Age of Google, when all-news-all-the-time channels have become the norm. This realization, then began to urge me to fight for the integrity of my profession.
I criticize my crafted articles every day. And started questioning my identity in this role and responsibilities. “Am I a real journalist?”, “am I good enough bearing with such title?” have I tried my best to do not fall into the trap of: plagiarism, a bad click-baited content, lack of fact-checking as the speed in slapping the latest and most sensational footage have become celebrated, and all of those prohibitions in efforts to make good articles as our product?
So it’s not easy to be a good journalist these days. The journalist has not had the time or permission to do real homework because his or her boss “needs” the news immediately to fill up those seconds, minutes and hours. Sponsors and consumers both hate dead air. We all know what the outcome of all of this: the mish-mash of facts, shallow and inaccurate “truthiness”.
Presenting quality content to our readers is something that we all crave as journalist and writer. And it should be. Every day, I found tons of lesson that I didn’t get academically through this real work. We live in challenging times for those who aspired to be good journalist.
In an essay featured on The Jakarta Post entitled “Language Barrier” written by Uly Siregar who is a writer and former journalist, she shared some insights in a more subtle way about which abilities should a good journalist possess. I gathered 3 points: confronting readers with the unspoken truths of society, challenging people with the brutal realities and hidden beauty of everyday life, and fight against the injustice.
So these are become my real homework, while trying my best balancing with the company’s demands in what keeps journalism business model alive. We are all trying our best to survive with whatever our job is.
I still have a long way to go. I have an insatiable hunger for the story of the century. Later on, I hope to master or ‘know’ how to interview people (which is what I’m lacking right now), able to interpret what I’ve learned in a clear, concise and interesting voice, and becoming a journalist who has a viewpoint, a set of “slants” that has been conceived through the job.