The lifeblood of My Jakarta is its contributors, and if you’re one of the many readers of this column, you will recognize the name Isabella Apriyana. The 23-year-old started contributing in order to get some writing experience, but she has ended up being able to afford new shoes and an Android phone thanks to this hobby of hers.
Ibel, as her friends call her, now works at the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology. So now, for the first time, she finds out what life’s like answering questions rather than asking them.
My Jakarta has been around for almost four years. Did you read it many times before you started contributing?
I was exposed to the Jakarta Globe and My Jakarta for about a year before I started writing My Jak stories.
What inspired you to contribute?
I learnt about this writing gig from a friend of mine posting the job info in my university senate Facebook page. I thought, why not give it a try? There’s this little part of me that is quite curious about the whole world of journalism. So I e-mailed the editor and within days I conducted my first My Jak interview.
How was your first My Jak Interview?
It was memorable for sure. My first subject was Siska Doviana, the executive director of Wikimedia Indonesia, a foundation that I happened to be interning at. At the time, Mbak Siska had done her share of interviews, so she reminded me about the asking the 5W1H [who, what, why, when, where and how] to start our interview [laughs].
So you knew your subject before. How did it compare to interviewing a complete stranger?
Talking with someone you don’t know is more fun. It’s like you ask him or her because you sincerely want to know about the person instead of just asking for the sake of formality. This in turn makes you really feel that you’ve learned something new every time. It’s also much easier to ask personal questions because you may not see that person ever again [smiles].
What do you think makes a good My Jakarta story?
My Jakarta is basically a column for profiling interesting people in Jakarta, so it’s not really based on current events or news. And people have different views on what makes a person interesting. Because of this, My Jak often features people that some see as ‘too usual.’ Now this is where it shines; I think a good My Jak story should expose trivial and unique things about a subject, even things that may be considered commonplace.
Give us an example.
My story about an ambulance operator was one of my favorites. I was shocked by the fact that the ambulance operator service for the entire capital was supported by only six personnel. I expected there would be dozens. I think it’s really hard to find that kind of information, even on Google. And the reason that fact was exposed on My Jakarta was not because of breaking news about our ambulance service or any urgent issue, but simply because of a curiosity to find an interesting story about people living in the capital.
Are you the kind of interviewer who prepares question before, or one who prefers to be spontaneous?
Preparing the questions, or at least the topics, beforehand really helps me. But often times, the answers to the questions I prepared are nothing special, so I end up not putting it in the final result.
Asking questions for the sake of information is easy. You can do that on Google. But the trick is asking questions that people don’t usually think of asking.
Writing down the questions is also quite difficult because often a question and the corresponding answer in the final result is a compilation of me asking about various things. Just because this is a Q&A format, you don’t just simply write down each question you ask and write each answer the subject gives; anyone can do that. We edit the questions and answers to present an entertaining and easy-to-read story that is also uniquely informative. A skill I’m also still trying to develop.
How often do you write for My Jakarta?
I honestly think I can contribute more. My editor agrees on that point [laughs]. Right now, I give about three stories a month.
Do you think it’s hard to write forMy Jak?
No, not really. You only need one or two hours for the interview and another two or three hours to write it down, so it’s really flexible, especially considering the fee [laughs]. Weighing all the possible alternative side jobs for high school and college students, I don’t see any reason why you would want to do anything else. Also, you get to meet a lot of interesting people and the experience of writing for a media outlet is a bonus.
How much did you think you were going to be paid at first?
I thought it was like only Rp 200,000 [$21], but it turns out it’s more than double that [laughs].
What’s your next project for My Jak?
I’m hoping to chat with the field counsellor in Kidzania [amusement center]. I also am keen to speak to a phone sex operator, whose services can be easily found under ‘ obat awet muda ’ [‘youthful drug’] ads in newspapers.
Ibel was talking to Antonny Saputra, the editor of My Jakarta. Contact My Jakarta via Twitter @MyJakartaJG.