The Jakarta Post was started as a collaboration between four Indonesian media under the urging of Information Minister Ali Murtopo and politician Jusuf Wanandi. After the first issue was printed on 25 April 1983, it spent several years with minimal advertisements and increasing circulation. After a change in chief editors in 1991, it began to take a more vocal pro-democracy point of view. The paper was one of the few Indonesian English-language dailies to survive the 1997 Asian financial crisis and currently has a circulation of about 40,000.
The Jakarta Post also features both a Sunday and Online edition, which go into detail not possible in the daily print edition. It is targeted at foreigners and educated Indonesians, although the middle-class Indonesian readership has increased. Noted for being a training ground for local and international reporters, The Jakarta Post has won several awards and been described as being "Indonesia's leading English-language daily". The Jakarta Post is a member of Asia News Network.
Founding and development
The Jakarta Post was the brainchild of Information Minister Ali Murtopo and politician Jusuf Wanandi. Murtopo and Wanandi were disappointed at the perceived bias against Indonesia in foreign news sources. At the time, there were two English-language dailies, the Indonesia Times and Indonesian Observer. However, due to negative public perception regarding the existing papers they decided to create a new one. In order to ensure credibility, the two agreed to convince a group of competing newspapers (the Golkar-backed Suara Karya, the Catholic-owned Kompas, the Protestant-owned Sinar Harapan, and the weekly Tempo) to back the nascent paper. It was hoped to become a quality English-language paper, similar to The Straits Times in Singapore, the Bangkok Post in Thailand, and the New Straits Times in Malaysia.
After founding PT Bina Media Tenggara to back the paper, Wanandi spent several months contacting influential figures at the targeted newspapers. To receive their cooperation, Kompas requested a 25 percent share in the new newspaper, for which it would handle the daily business operations, such as printing, circulation, and advertising. Tempo offered to assist with management in return for a 15 percent share, while Sabam Siagian of Sinar Harapan was hired as the first chief editor, for which Sinar Harapan received stock. The establishment of the paper was further aided by incoming Information Minister Harmoko, who received 5 percent interest for his role in acquiring a license. In total, the start-up cost Rp. 500 million (US$700,000 at the time). Muhammad Chudori, a co-founder of The Jakarta Post who formerly reported for Antara, became the newspaper's first general manager.
Further details, including the matter of Sinar Harapan's share of stock and the publisher, were decided at a meeting at Wanandi's office in March 1983. The next month, on 25 April, the first edition — totalling eight pages — was published. The first newsroom of the new paper were located in Kompas's former laundry room, a one story warehouse; the first employees had to do the layout by hand, using pica poles as straight edges. During the first few months, the writers translated and recycled previously published stories from Indonesian media, which were later picked up by foreign wire services. Original reporting was rare as the editors at first did not want to deal with the censorship of Suharto's New Order government.
During the early years of publication, The Jakarta Post had difficulty attracting advertisers, to the point that some editions ran without ads. However, circulation increased dramatically, from 8,657 in 1983 to 17,480 in 1988. Although it was originally hoped that the paper would begin to turn a profit within the first three years, the recession in the early 1980s led to the start-up funds being depleted. Eventually, in 1985 the paper took out an interest-free loan and received Rp. 700 million from its owners. After advertising increased, The Jakarta Post was able to turn a profit by 1988, and was considered "one of the most credible newspapers" in Indonesia.
Susanto Pudjomartono, former chief editor of Tempo, became The Jakarta Post's second chief editor on 1 August 1991, after Siagian was chosen to be Indonesia's ambassador to Australia. Under Pudjomartono's leadership, the paper began publishing more original work and doing less translation; reporters were also asked to take a more active role in the day-to-day operations of the paper. The paper also became more vocal regarding politics, taking a pro-democracy stance like Tempo. It soon converted its offices into a new, two-story building built using the Kompas pension fund and expanded to 12 pages.
In 1994, The Jakarta Post signed a distribution agreement with the British news service Reuters and the American Dialog Information Services, allowing its stories to be more easily promoted overseas. By the mid-1990s, it had established a workshop to assist its new, foreign-born staff in learning the local culture. By December 1998, The Jakarta Post had a circulation of 41,049, and was one of the few English-language dailies in Indonesia after the 1997 Asian financial crisis; six other English-language dailies had failed. That year it also became a founding member of the Asia News Network.
In November 2008, The Jakarta Post began to feel competition, dubbed "a wake up call", from the Jakarta Globe, which is backed by billionaire James Riady. Several reporters from The Jakarta Post left the paper to join the Jakarta Globe, and the initial print run of the latter was 40,000. As of 2011, the chief editor is Meidyatama Suryodiningrat.
Editions and other publications
The Jakarta Post's Sunday edition was launched on 18 September 1994. The Sunday edition includes more in-depth stories, as well as entertainment and fiction that would not be published in the weekday editions.
The Jakarta Post features an online edition, which includes both print and internet exclusive stories that are free to access. There are also news flashes that are developed as they happen. The paper hopes to digitise the entirety of its printed stories, with at least 50,000 articles dating to June 1994 already digitised.
On 9 April 2012 the Jakarta Post launched Bali Daily, a four pages daily newspaper produced in Bali, after noting that 4,900 of their subscribers lived on the island.
The Jakarta Post is targeted at Indonesian businesspeople, well-educated Indonesians, and foreigners. In 1991, 62 percent of the paper's readers were expatriates. Under Pudjomartono's leadership, it began targeting more Indonesian readers. As of 2009, approximately half of its 40,000 readers are middle class Indonesians.
Layout and style
The Jakarta Post follows a broadsheet format. In the beginning, it featured an index on the front page, as well as short offbeat stories under the title "This Odd World". The lifestyle section had eight comic strips, and it used more photographs and graphics than was normal for Indonesian publications at that time. The editorials tended to be shorter than their Indonesian counterparts.
The Jakarta Post uses the inverted pyramid style of reporting, with the most important information at the beginning of the article; during the 1980s, many Indonesian papers put the lede further down. Bill Tarrant attributes this to the different writing styles in English and Indonesian, with English favouring the active voice and direct statements, while respectful Indonesian favours the passive voice and a circuitous approach. Regarding this topic, Wanandi has said that "You cannot bullshit in English, like the Javanese way."
Peter Gelling, of The New York Times, notes that The Jakarta Post has been considered a "training ground" for local reporters, and offers apprenticeship programs. In 2009, six former The Jakarta Post reporters worked for Bloomberg. In 2014 the Jakarta Post was behind Kompas in terms of online visits.
Awards and recognition
In 2006, the Reporters Union of Indonesia recognised The Jakarta Post as being one of the Indonesian newspapers that best followed the journalism ethics and standards; other papers so recognised were Kompas and Indo Pos. The paper received the Adam Malik Award in January 2009 for their reporting on foreign politics; the coverage was considered accurate and educated, with good analysis. The following year three reporters received the Adiwarta Award from Sampoerna for excellent photography in the fields of culture, law, and politics. Another journalist received the Adam Malik Award in 2014 for his writings which assisted the ministry to distribute information regarding foreign policy implementation.