Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Funny Moments In Cubeland

Taken from here

Hey, it turns out that this week is the National Newspaper Week (but it's in the USA?). Anyway, while we're on the subject of newspapers and journalism, I want to share several funny stories about being a journo in TJaP. I've posted them in my old blogs, but I wanted to share them here anyway.

1. When I entered TJaP's newsroom in 2007, I was greeted by black screen with white words and a computer program that requires no mouse. For those clueless souls, I'm talking about Word Star 5.5 here. I was so shocked, because I learned that program in the early 1990s, alongside Lotus 123 and D Base 3+. If you've never heard any of those programs, well, sorry kids, you're probably not born yet.

In the beginning, I wrote with Microsoft Word and then I copied and pasted the article to the WS 5.5. But Terry, the IT guy, said that I should get used to it since I'd be using them on a daily basis. I ended up bugging Tony, my then-national colleague, and Terry because the program somehow turned to devil  mode every time those boys were not around.

Don't ask me why TJaP still used the dinosaur program in the 2000s. What I knew for sure was I blessed the day when the bosses decided to put a stop to the usage of WS 5.5. The name of Word Star reminds me of Death Star, and I'm just glad that the Force be with me.

2. For almost one year, I had a cubicle situated in front of the rooms of  the Managing Editors (heretofore will be called as "the MEs"). It was not a good seating position because the guests will ask where the MEs are (because the MEs are always on the move), the MEs will ask you to help them, and then you suddenly became "The Accidental Secretary".

One day Ryd, one of the MEs, called me and asked me to forward an email to someone. He had already left office when he realized that he forgot to send that particular email. And so, I did it. Then, when TJaP celebrated its silver jubilee, he asked me to circulate the seminar's invitation into the mailing list I joined. I did it, and there were 300 people coming to the venue (while it only had seats for 200 people). Hmm, I believed I deserved a bonus? 

Then people were starting to look for him whenever he was not in his room. When he returned, I would usually tell him that (for example) the woman from the second floor was looking for him. I even told him that his cellphone rung during his absence. What an efficient secretary I am!

Then he started to tell me where he was going so that I could inform anyone looking for him. He would also inform me that he's going home, while offering a ride. Unfortunately, his house is not on the same route to my house.

Then the long awaited moment came...

"I will be on leave until May 23, in case anyone is looking for me," he said, smiling.

I thought I would have peace until that date. But then, people asked where the other ME was! 

3. The job can be a bitch at times, but I always manage to find funny moments with my colleagues. For example, when I was in National desk and had Daim and Nvn as my editors.

Daim was the editor (NE) and Nvn was the deputy editor (NDE). While both men have gray hair, they have opposite personalities. Daim is very calm, very self-controlled, while Nvn is not. However, they complement each other, just like Yin and Yang.

Let me give some excerpts of our conversations.

Size matters #1

Nvn : Just make 2.7 kb for your article. (Each media has different measurement system for news. Some use the number of words, character or lines. Whichever system we use, there is one golden rule: you should write according to the space)
Me : Ok.
[After I had finished my article, a desperate scream was heard]
Nvn : What? 4.4 kb???
Me : Oh, come on. Don't restrict your cub rep's creativity.
Nvn : Self control. [Imitating a yogi]

Size matters #2

Nvn : Ok, today you may unleash your creativity. You are allowed to make a 4.0 kb article.
Me : Ok. [Beneath my calm answer, I was panic because I only had so little thing to write that day]
[A few minutes later]
Nvn : Oops, sorry. No space. Just write a short article, maximum 3.0 kb.
Me : Ok. [With a big happy relieved smile]
[Daim nudged Nvn, and whispered. Five seconds later, Nvn yelled]
Nvn : Hey, there's good news. There are empty spaces. You can go beyond 4.0 kb!
Me : Mas Nvn, self control please. [Frustrated, typing quickly]
Daim : [Giggling]

Size matters #3
Nvn : Let me get it straight. You-should-not-exceed-3.0-kb-today.
Me : Ok.
(One hour later)
Me : I'm finished and it's only 2.7 kb.
Nvn : Euh, I'm sorry, could you make another three paragraphs?

Size matters #4
Nvn : You should make a 8.0 kb for this article.
Me : I'm not sure if I can make it. It was a brief interview.
Nvn : Well, try to make between 6.0-8.0 kb then.
[A few minutes later, Daim passed by my desk]
Me : So far, it's only 4.4 kb, Da. Is it enough?
Daim : It's allright. Don't worry. And Tif, self control please.
-- I got a feeling Daim was enjoying the conversation between Nvn and me. Is it that entertaining? Hmm...

4. Another funny moment was when I was assigned in the City desk, which held a weekly meeting every Thursday night. It usually lasted for at least one hour after we've finished our stories, meaning that we'd come home at around midnight. But the effect was mind-broadening and heart-bonding.

One night, we discussed about Book Day edition. Each of us should write about a prominent figure who owns a personal library. Mtq will approach Central Jakarta mayor Sylviana Murni, Nes will make a profile on activist Kiswanti, Dre will interview singer-actress Bunga Citra Lestari (he's very happy to have such assignment,ha!) and CDE#1 will see actor Nicholas Saputra (Ah, I want  to interview him too!).

"Trw, how about if you ask Carlo Brix Tewu?" said the editors. Trw was covering the City Police. She nodded.
Wait, wait, I began to see a pattern here. Carlo is quite handsome for a police officer and he's well-built (I'm not sure if he has the six-pack abs but he's obviously not fat).
"Can I interview Gus Dur's relatives? The young and cute guy, Ipang Wahid?" asked CDE#2.
Huaaa...I knew I was right! Everyone stared at me. My brain cells began to collect all names of the young and handsome prominent figures.

"How about the business people? You know, like Sandiaga Uno?" I smiled.
"Naaah. Too much media coverage on him," CDE#1 said.

"You can meet Anindya Bakrie though, he's less exposed than Sandiaga," CDE#2 said.

"Oh yeah, I heard he's been building up his muscles since he's a teenager," CE said.
(Most of the conversation happened during the Thursday night meeting is irrelevant to the main topic.)

"Wow, so you mean he has six pack abs?" I said, enthusiastically.

"Probably. Or six pack chins," CDE#1 said.

"It should be someone whom we will never guess that he has book collection," CE said.

"Yeah, like personal trainers," CDE#2 said.

"Hey how about Ade Rai?" Nes asked.

"Oh yes, I agree!!!" I said.

And that was the best assignment ever, because Ade Rai is a really nice person:) I got to interview him as well as had a closer look at his muscles, oops I meant his books:P

5. Since Indonesians don't use English as first language, I interview people in Bahasa and then write the article in English. Sometimes, there are difficulties in the writing process because not all words have the exact translation. Sometimes, I am lost in translation:)

For example, in Indonesia we have an illness called "masuk angin". I don't think there is an exact word to describe this kind of illness. Literally, the translation would be "the entering wind". My mentor said that the right word would be "to catch a draft".

Another example was when I was writing an article on family planning. I stumbled upon the word of "kawin cerai". First, I asked my colleague Alv who sat across my cubicle, but he suggested me ask Beck, a copy editor sitting next to me. So I asked Beck, and the conversation went like this.

Me : "Hi, Beck. Do we have an English term for 'kawin cerai'?”
Beck : "What is that?"
Me : "Err...It's a condition when a man marries a woman and divorces her after he has a child with her. Then, he marries another woman and divorces her. And he does it over and over again."
Beck : "Jen, Sarah, do we have such term to explain that?"
(Jen and Sarah are also copy editors, Sarah sat next to Beck while Jen sat next to Alv.)
Sarah : "What is the article about?"
Me : "'s about birth control program. My source recommend the stoppage of such practices to reduce population."
Sarah : "Told them to use condoms."
Jen : "I've never heard such thing. Is it a normal thing here?"
Alv and I just stared. Alv tried to hold his laugh, though.
Me : "Can we get back to the word again?" (Focus girls, it's my article we were discussing. And time was ticking.)
Beck : "How about 'serial divorce'?"
Me : "It sounds like serial killer. But it works for me. Ok. Thanks Beck."
And guess what, my mentor agreed with the word! It was really printed in TJaP. Beck and I invented a new term!


  1. Tifaaa... this article of yours MAKES me laugh, hahahah... You're sooo funny, girl; I can especially imagine those conversations between you and Mas Nvn. ROFTL... But, it's cool you remember all those events in details; weird that I can hardly remember what I did back then when we were still cub reporters. Feels like sooo long ago; the memories are too vague for me.

  2. mas nvn has been trying to rope me to work with him. if that ever happens, we'll be like the srimulat comedy group, hahaha...

    i can still remember our early days in Cubeland, when we had the lunchbox club, when we spent 3 months in office for the training, when we first got our assignment. it's sooo long ago, but the bygone era always felt more beautiful, perhaps because they would never come back:)

  3. Ah, ya, the lunchbox club with Nisa, on the roundtable. Sorry to leave you alone in the club, btw :P. Anyway I wonder how Nisa's doing now...

  4. the lunchbox club with you, me, nisa and lilian. i still bring my lunchbox every now and then. sometimes i take a look at nisa's facebook, she seems to be healthy and happy...