By Virginia Tapp, JPP 2010
University of Queensland
1. Ask your colleagues
When in doubt, don’t waste time googling something that the person next to you can easily explain. At GA everyone is willing to help with contacts, information or general knowledge. For example, all I discovered from searching Sylviana Murni on the internet is that her contact details are not on there and that she has featured in newspapers many times. However, Syukar, who Pak Yanto referred to as her ‘boyfriend’, could readily access her mobile number in his phone. On another occasion I sought the advice of Sasha as I couldn’t work out how everyone’s lunches kept magically appearing at their desks. She was very helpful and also became my food advisor as I referred to her for any queries I had about food. She recommended Oxtail soup and Martabak, but was shocked to discover I had tried ‘Pete’ without her advice. After recovering from the initial disbelief that a bule enjoyed pete, and telling Syakur who also joined in the laughter, they recommended Jangkol. I tried it as soon as I left the office and am proud to say I enjoyed it and didn’t suffer terrible breath.
For administration queries I turned to Dessy who was probably tired of my voice after the first day as I needed her assistance for using the phones, posting things, name cards and tax claims. I’m also afraid to estimate the number of times I said ‘Jim, how do I….’, but always received some helpful advice in reply and without complaint. He also kept me focused on the project of highest priority because I have tendencies to try and do everything but end up accomplishing nothing. Feri received approximately 100 texts from me per day telling him times for photography sessions, canceling and then rescheduling. Lessons extended beyond the office as Feri taught me how to catch a Kopaja when I’d already resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t co-ordinated enough to board a moving vehicle, watch my belongings and depart a moving vehicle.
2. Say something at editorial meetings
Even if you’re not totally convinced you’ve got a great idea, just pretend because if you don’t look confident nobody else will have confidence in you. As Pak Yanto put it, “At least say something”, even if you think it’s a risk it’s one you should take because it’ll either be accepted and make a story, or be rejected and make a lesson.
3. Get interviews early
Other people don’t care much if you want to interview someone, even though you believe its very important. In fact, they might even enjoy making it harder for you when all their job entails is ‘minding’ a politician or other high-up figure. You can have all the contacts in the world, but if the person in charge is being difficult it take longer so I learnt to with hold snide comments and replace them with someone appropriate verging on a ‘may-I-please-kiss-the-ground-you-walk-on’ style. Some obstacles include wantng a copy of the publication delivered to their desk and read to them, needing to see the entire readership statistic record and taking their time to reply once they get it.
4. GET PHOTOS to go with your story
Preferably get photos at the time of the interview, but sometimes this isn’t possible as your photographer can lose his phone the morning you have an interview with the Mayor of Central Jakarta and becomes unreachable. However, I learnt that you can always schedule a separate time but it just takes longer when you could get all the material at once. Sometimes I had to reschedule three of four times but as long as you keep following the project up with your subject the photos eventually get taken.
5. Be prepared to return to something you thought you’d seen the end of
Just when I’d almost forgotten how to spell Sylviana Murni’s name, I found out the article was in need of a few tweaks and had to dredge it up from the depths of my computer’s memory. Sometimes a thorough copy editing also turned up a few gaps that needed to be filled, but I realised the editors know best and the end product is always more rewarding after taking some constructive criticism on board.
6. Copy editing is harder than it looks
While I enjoyed turning the stories into something fit for the magazine, I’m a perfectionist and copy editing drove me slightly insane because the grammar or wording can always be more correct. I think I read of the cover story on Hengky over twenty times trying to find mistakes and I’m still not sure if it’s perfect. Like Keith said, I think I’ll reserve my copy editing days for when I’m too old to do anything else, (or am fluent in a different language).
7. Don’t be idle
Time is different in a place where there are deadlines. Estimating how much time you have left with a regular concept of time will ensure you finish the project at least one week after it’s due if you’re lucky. Add the extra time constraint of an internship and you’ll still be getting lost on the last day of work. This means that in order to get anything done you must decide what you’re doing, start doing it and do it fast because you have to allow room for many errors. These include the taxi driver not knowing the address, out of date addresses, mucet, waiting for other people or eating something that doesn’t agree with you and wants to get out in a hurry. You must also account for the disadvantages that are inherent to bule: you don’t know the city, you will do most things the long way and you will forget vital information.
8. Enjoy it
It can’t be fun all the time, but mostly it is. Keeping the right attitude makes people respond better, whether it be in an interview or around the office, effectively making life easier in general. Talk to people because no where else have I found people more interested in what I have to say, and there’s always the chance they’ll inspire you for your next story.