Eileen McInnes on the ACICIS Jakarta experience

Eileen McInnes Jakarta is one of those cities you can never quite describe. You can have a love-hate relationship with almost every aspect of the city, which is what made interning at The Jakarta Globe such an interesting experience.

 I arrived in Jakarta in early January as part of the ACICIS Journalism Professional Practicum. There were 24 student journalists from around Australia as well as a similar sized group of development studies students. We were given a few days of R&R to get used to the city, meet our fellow interns, and find a place to live.

Our first hurdle was a two-week language and culture course. Our day was filled from 8:30-12:30 at Atma Jaya University cramming in as much Bahasa as possible. The afternoons were spent attending various seminars on topics such as Indonseian; politics, economics, relgion, censorship and the environment. We were also invited to the Ambassador’s house for a dinner, and being a journalist we attended a lunch with the Foreign Correspondents Club (while the development students had an exciting trip to the tip).

The Jakarta Globe is a daily English newspaper owned by the Lippo Group. Our first few days at the Globe were as you would expect. We met the editors, learned about the newspaper, played around on the copy desk, and pitched a few story ideas.

We were based at the copy desk, which is the hub at the Globe. Many of the articles are written first in Bahasa and then translated in the office to English. These articles generally required complete restructuring and a lot of fine tuning. 

Though it really shouldn’t be surprising, I was fascinated by the sheer volume of news that accompanied the flourishing Asean region. Two papers released on the same day would be filled by different yet equally important news. 

My first week, despite having a slow start, quickly became fulfilling. I attended a forum, with speakers from the American Chamber of Commerce, and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry discussing the future of US-Indonesian relations. This was my first article.

Next I was thrown into an economics article about Southeast Asian local currency bond markets. A report had come in from Standard and Poors ratings agency about utilising the high savings in the region to invest in the region. Apparently locals feel more comfortable about investing in Western nations rather than at home.

After interviewing the S&P’s Managing Director of Asean and the credit analyst for Indoesia I had two more articles published; local investment and Indonesia’s investment grade. One of the best parts about working for such a prominent English paper, was the time that professionals were willing to give to me. These incredibly busy and intelligent people were all too happy to spend an hour of their day explaining their research.

This economics work led to a much larger piece on Australian and Indonesian relations. We were in Indonesia at a good time, considering the context of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. Not even a pin prick of the fanfare it received in Australia was followed in Jakarta. Our editor had barely heard about it. The three interns at the Globe split the topic, the future economic, political, and cultural relations between the two countries.

Mine, the economic, harnessed interviews from people I didn’t even dream I would have access to, especially as an intern. As well as my own contacts in Australia my editor helped me contact the CEO of the ANZ Group in Indonesia, Joseph Abraham, Boston Consulting’s Senior Partner and Managing Director of the Sydney Office, Ross Love, and the Secretary General of the Indonesia-Australia Business Council, David Sutanto.

I also met Joseph Saunders, Deputy Program Director for the Human Rights Watch. He visited the Globe office for the launch of the Annual Human Rights Report. It was a unique opportunity to talk about the rising occurrences of religious violence in Indonesia. A co-intern and myself were then given the freedom to write this into a feature.

As I get ready to say goodbye to Jakarta I think of all the times I got lost, tripped on the crumbling ‘footpaths’ and risked falling into a dirty drain pipe, got stuck in traffic for hours, had a driver who ‘got lost’ with the meter on, and the too many times I was plagued by an upset tummy.

But then, endearingly, the taxi drivers always teased my accent and wanted to know about my life. The ojeks swerved through the traffic allowing for my long legs and clumsy posture, laughing when I repeatedly failed to remove my own helmet. And when the traffic and the pollution is really too much, there is always a mall or a roof top to escape to.