a delightful conference

I was invited by Centre for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila Universty to attend 2nd Forum of Emerging Leaders in Asian Journalism. The main theme on this forum was “Leading Asia: Critical Media Issues”.

blog-31.jpgThis two days conference brought excellent speakers from Bangladesh, India, Philippines and UK ; the reactors who were also the graduated fellows from ACFJ were also brought from many countries such as Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, India, Cambodia and Philippines.



This conference, the whole discussion, especially during Mr. Mahmuf Anaz’s session, has reminded me on the authentic role of journalist as the watch dog. Along with the news journalist wrote, journalist should sometimes become environmental journalist, developmental journalist, or other categories of journalist. Though we do not need to name ourselves as ‘one specific category of journalist’ but those roles are embedded in every piece journalist should wrote.

A quite difficult job for journalist isn’ it? And a bit of too ideal. But Mr. Anam has convinced us that is what made journalist’s job special. And because of that, Mr. Anam reminded us that in the future, the oppression for journalist’s work is go beyond imaginary.

After talking about value, on what should journalist be, then we go to another challenges confront journalist’s work.

Internet penetration, media convergence, high competition among business, citizen journalism, blogging were among those challenges media organizations should face.

The media landscape has changed now. The old age when media organization and journalist has priviledge in producing content has changed. Now people could produce their own content, put it in a web and go globally.

Maria Ressa, Head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, the biggest television network in Philippines cited some examples on how media organization facing those changes. Reducing its workforce is one of it. She told us how the CNN works during the 80’s when they still need four persons to report, then reduced to three, reduced to two and finally one. Now, a reporter should be able to giving a report, as well as playing as a cameraman, also making sure the bandwith and technology is available to transmit.

This discussion then followed into media monopoly issue. Now most of media industry has change its delivery platform –not only through one ‘traditional’ medium—but also through website, IP-TV (Internet Protocol Television), or merge among radio-television and website.

Most of the media now has encircled its audience through various way. Television, radio, website, e-mail, PDA, video. It certainly leads to a media monopoly. Monopoly –even in free market paradigm, as Ishan Joshi said— is threatening.

Will community media survive in this scenery, as my colleague asked?

Maria said, nowadays, more and more niche of media is needed. It is possible to have community radio in one village for example, since audience now wants something what they need. Not always receiving what media offer. She called as a ‘long tail theory’. In this way, probably, she said that the monopoly is no longer a threat.

I was struck by that notion, as I always believe, that monopoly, concentration of ownership is and will be the challenge for media diversity.

Though internet penetration has change almost completely media landscape, I personally think, it is not happening in most of rural regions yet, especially Indonesia. Though the ‘threat’, or wiser to say, ‘challenge’ of internet is waiting, but it certainly needs a lot of time to then become a culture in Indonesian landscape. People in Indonesia, especially in rural areas, still needs the information to be delivered in traditional medium platform. It is difficult to imagine, farmers in Karawang will enganged daily in front of the computer. It may be so, but probably takes a decade.

In these two fasinating days, there were also a discussion on the press council role. We were agreed on the notion that press council role is not as enforcer but as the internal mechanism in press society to do ‘name and shame’. It is also playing a great role to resolute complaints from public. But please, as most of the Asian countries experiences, do not put too much responsibility to press council.

There was also discussion on photo journalism. Technology has also changed photo journalist landscape. Now, most of the media organizations rely on agency. The impact is, streamlining of its photographer. Not only that, there is a need for a photographer to be able to comment on the news, not telling the news as they used to be.

Above all, this conference is truly a enlightment episode for me. It felt wonderful to be part of such a rich discussion, where your idea on media development was continue challenged and contested.

I am glad that I was one of the fellow. Thank you ACFJ!


pictures: Jimmy, ACFJ

  • May 6, 2007