I have seen the Future
And it is Good
This year she managed to catch me at a particularly fortuitous time. Once again I can’t go to Ontario to buy a lemonade but I am in the process of executing my father’s will, and although I am virtually destitute, having been without an income for close to two years, my father’s will allows for a substantial legacy to be donated to charity. Naturally, I earmarked some of that for Alzheimer’s research, but because of Alice’s dedication to her campaign and because of my mother’s death by cancer, I will be donating $10,000 as my father’s legacy, largely inspired by Alice, to the Canadian Cancer Society.
|L -R : Ghian, Alyssa, me, Miriam|
|Miriam, the professional journalist|
The class was great. We were able to tackle the nuts and bolts of fact finding and verification, cultivating contact/source lists, newsworthiness criteria, lead writing, pyramid structure, quote attribution, source protection, copyediting and all the rest quite easily; no small feat since English was the language of instruction and evaluation and it is a second language for all three of them. We were thus able to spend time on those aspects of journalism that I believe are the real core values of the profession.
While the technical aspects – fact finding and verifying etc. – are the indispensible tools of effective journalists, these become habitual mechanical details with experience. While writing is an ongoing learning experience and one improves it daily, it is the personal approach, the bringing of one’s essential character to the table that separates the competent from the true greats. Because Ghian, Miriam, and Alyssa absorbed the basics so readily and their English writing skills progressed so steadily, we spent that semester, and the following one in which we specialised in feature writing, focussing on those core values.
|The glamorous Alyssa Soebandono|
We talked about the history of journalism; we discussed the relationship between democracy and the press; we examined journalistic integrity and posed and attempted to solve journalistic ethical dilemmas, we looked at journalist heroes, we brainstormed on the impossibility of pure objectivity versus fairness and even-handedness in reporting. While the basics of journalism were absorbed and given a workout every class, journalism in all of our minds became accepted as a low-paid higher calling. By the time the final semester was over and the three students moved on to pursue and finish their degrees at the mother Monash campuses (Miriam in Malaysia, Ghian and Alyssa in Melbourne, Australia), all three had a concept of journalism as a force for bringing about positive social change; a far cry from the not entirely inaccurate Indonesian view of local “journalists” being little more than hacks who slant their stories for cash and act as the bottom feeders they are paid to be. This must have been a particularly difficult paradigm shift for Alyssa whose prior experience with the press had been restricted to a lifetime of unpleasant encounters with paparazzi.
|Ghian, our social conscience|
I learned as much from them as they learned from me; maybe more. I know that I am a much better journalist for having worked with them.
I’m pleased to report that I maintain a degree of contact with all three of them and that we consider ourselves friends. Miriam has gone on to become a television reporter (a métier she confided she would never have considered prior to Monash) in Surabaya, one of Indonesia’s largest cities. Ghian is a frequent youth ambassador to UN environmental and democracy conferences and conventions where he acts as press liaison and communications point man. He came to visit me and my dying father on one of his international trips. Alyssa meanwhile has put her multimillion dollar career on hold while she pursues her education and social conscience in the UK.
These are people that I will always be proud to have known and whom I know will make a difference in the world. Like little Alice, they make the cut. The world is already a better place for their being in it.