Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Read the News Today Oh Boy

Last weekend, this very newspaper, the Jakarta Globe no less, held a little soirée down at a new bar called Marley's. It proved to be a very jolly affair and there was a dangerous free flow of beer on tap (although nothing stronger than this, as the bar's name might suggest, in fact I'm still looking forward to the day when I can walk into a convenience store with my head held high and order a pack of 20 Marley's).

In any case, I managed to finally meet up with the fine body of men and women who've been putting this delightful, and now award-winning, paper together ever since 12th November 2008. I even managed to win a couple of tickets to Sea World which I was made up about seeing as it's the only door prize that I have ever won, as well as the fact that I am a keen amateur dolphin mind melder.

Alas, I did also have to confess to being the person behind this column to a few people at the party, so now they can put a face to the name and walk the other way the next time they see me coming. Actually, a good tip if you’re a budding writer is to claim that there’s someone out there with exactly the same name as you going around stirring up trouble with their opinionated piffle.

So, a whole year and a half of the soaraway Globe, and what a useful source of information it’s been. Only this week I learned that a member of the group Peter Pan has been filming himself on the job. My primary concern with this story was that the two and a half minute duration of the film was in fact the length of the entire sordid act. I sincerely hope that young Ariel was able to keep the wolf from the door for a little bit longer than that before hitting the vinegar strokes. I mean you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.

We also learned this week that Uncle Obama has cancelled his Indonesian trip for a second time, refusing to leave the US until the BP gusher is sorted out. Which is fair enough really. Alas, the same concern for country hasn’t been shown by some over here. Mister Bakrie, for example, hasn’t refused to leave Indonesia until he’s sorted out his mud gusher. I mean, if that were true he would have spent the last four years in Indonesia. Maybe he did, who knows? Most likely he's paid a visit to the holy land and made a down payment on his stake in the great afterlife real estate scam.

Back to all matters Globe though, what does the future look like for our favourite Jakarta read? And, more broadly speaking, are all newspapers doomed? Over the last month, we've seen the Apple iPad and iPhone 4G being unveiled and both devices will root the internet reading experience even deeper into the fabric of modern life. Antipodean Antichrist Rupert Murdoch is currently attempting to buck the trend by introducing charges for his papers' online content, but surely this will prove a huge mistake.

The news media are in a massive state of flux at the moment and many are trying to push the envelope. The website True/Slant, for example, uses a digital speedometer to match content on its site to trending topics on Google or Twitter. Pursuing a different model, Demand Media generates assignment lists for journalists based entirely on search terms. There’s also a site called Global Post, which hopes to charge readers for direct access to its foreign correspondents. It's a strange time alright and as Google's chief economist, Hal Vanian said, "The three most important things that any newspaper can do now are experiment, experiment and experiment."

Perhaps some tedious new business model for Internet media will evolve in the near future however the science fiction view of the information ultra highway is far more fun, namely that every information synapse (biological or silicon) will soon be connected to every other synapse on the planet until humanity becomes one huge ever growing pulsating brain that rules from the centre of the ultraworld before it eventually gets sucked through a "2001: A Space Odyssey " stargate of its own making into a higher dimension. We won’t need those Marley’s when that happens.

The Globe has been doing a good job over the last year though in terms of getting its name out there. Perhaps being an English-language daily in a non-English-speaking country puts it in a different category from the currently folding US dailies. The Globe’s slick website and strong Facebook and Twitter presence no doubt encourages many people to read its stories who would never think of buying an English daily normally, and this is surely a good thing. 

Hopefully the Globe will continue to offer probing news and buck the trend of consumers around the world who mainline pop entertainment news like it’s heroin, which in turn leads to newspapers squandering fewer and fewer of their precious editorial resources upon investigating political and corporate corruption whilst the societal role of the fourth estate dwindles to nothing. Happy reading.