Friday, September 21, 2012

Global perspective

It's been almost a month since a series of events conspired to usher me out of the Jakarta Globe. I'm still pretty narked off about the whole thing, but that's not the purpose of this post. There are some pictures floating around my desktop that I want to post -- some of them even contain people. The shots are somewhat large, so I've left them after the jump.

A couple shots from a typical day in the newsroom. Yes, it usually is that sparsely populated, even with three separate publications calling it home. The copy desk is in the foreground of the top picture (the seat with the juice bottle in front of it was mine) and the sports desk is deep in the central background. The Pod -- the nerve center of the newsroom -- is pictured below. What management decisions are not outsourced to the absentee muckety-mucks take place there.

In a curious bit of timing, it just so happened that my birthday (May 2) was the final edition of the Globe in the broadsheet format (seen below at right). Since then, it's been printed as a tabloid (below left). This was all part of the paper's brave new leadership going into a new, prosperous future.

Despite pledging to provide readers more features and analysis, the Globe's content remained relatively unchanged after the switch. Not long after, word came from On High that we needed more business coverage, so the business section doubled from four pages to eight (but without any extra resources to help the biz desk fill those extra pages). Odd that those On High would complain about less news being in the newspaper when they signed off on shrinking every page by 50 percent and mandating one fluff section per day.

One of the least edifying episodes in the New Globe era was the "Lippo satellite" affair. The Globe's parent company, Lippo Group, bought space on a Japanese satellite to help boost its satellite TV business. While such news would usually merit a brief (if any mention at all) in most publications, the people calling the shots at the Globe clearly considered this a Big F'ing Deal, even if they were well in the minority in that view.

There was also what came to be known as the Lady Gaga Saga. In short, a bunch of thugs using their "defense" of Islam as a fig leaf threatened to wreak havoc if the pop star was allowed to perform in Jakarta. In response, the government and law enforcement did Sweet Fanny Adams. Rather than dig deeper and risk phone calls from irate police officials, the Globe (at the behest of its publisher) dutifully swallowed the official line that "cultural differences" were behind the cancellation of Gaga's Jakarta concert, even going so far as to put the blandest headline possible on the accompanying article.

(It's also worth noting the article on the right-hand page. Not a peep about Indonesia welcoming in representatives of a despotic regime, just a bright and cheery piece about SBY playing statesman again and trying to secure some good deals out of a country with which most of the world is loath to deal.)

And as if there was any question the publisher was eager to soothe the simmering butthurt among his friends in the police:

Lastly, this is the front page of the final edition of the Globe on which I worked. It speaks for itself, really -- putting a day-old wire story about American cyclist Lance Armstrong on the cover of an Indonesian newspaper. The sports staff made a manful effort trying to craft a local angle to go with the wire story, and the accompanying editorial was predictably limp.

This isn't meant to sound like every day at the Globe was akin to the Bataan death march -- far from it. For most of the time I was there, it was great (I wouldn't have worked six-day weeks for the whole of my first year otherwise). It's just that it took such a bizarre, messy twist in recent months that what enjoyment was there was outweighed by the increasing grind with fewer and fewer people and growing meddling from On High.

Part of me wants to see the people who took the Globe down this sordid path receive their comeuppance and get tossed out on their ear, but at the same time I still have friends there who need the work to support their families. Maybe I'm just sad that a newspaper that burned so bright and showed such promise ended up as a multimillionaire's forgotten plaything.

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