Editor: 'Our advantage comes from the good content generated by our users'

by Jessica Weiss
Oct 30, 2018 in Miscellaneous

Kompas, one of Indonesia’s largest newspapers, has cultivated a committed network of citizen journalists who post news, opinion and even works of fiction online. Since its launch in 2008, the citizen journalism site, called Kompasiana, has become the largest citizen media initiative in Indonesia, with 200,000 contributors who collectively publish 800 articles daily on kompasiana.com.

Kompasiana’s members, known as “Kompasianers,” include students, doctors, activists, teachers and more. The network even boasts a number of politicians and celebrity contributors, who share their thoughts and interact with readers. Among them: former Vice President of Indonesia Jusuf Kalla; novelist Pipiet Senja; and singer-songwriter Melanie Subono.

Kompasiana Editor Iskandar Zulkarnaen talked with IJNet about how Kompasiana cultivates and manages publication of citizen contributions.

IJNet: What is the idea behind Kompasiana?

Iskandar Zulkarnaen: The earliest intention for creating Kompasiana in 2008 was to provide blogging space for Kompas’ journalists. But this didn’t work very well. One day, about two months after its launch, one of our readers raised an idea: what if Kompasiana was a space for citizens? We responded to that idea seriously, and in 2009 we launched Kompasiana as a social blog for everyone.

IJNet: Who ensures Kompasiana runs smoothly?

IZ: There are two job positions: Moderator and editor. Moderators are responsible for sorting articles and proposing good articles to editors. Editors select the content and smooth and correct typographical errors before promoting items.

We have 10 staff, rotating through four shifts every weekday. We work 24/7, checking every single article published on Kompasiana.

IJNet: What types of content are moderators and editors looking for?

IZ: Each day we feature Headlines, Highlighted Articles and more. And every week, we select five articles for a Kompasiana print version called Kompasiana Freez, published every Wednesday with the Kompas Daily Newspaper. We also highlight popular articles (based on analytics) as Trending Articles and put the [highest-rated] articles in a special box.

We determine headlines based on the story’s originality and depth. Our priority is news rather than opinion. For instance, when the earthquake hit Japan two years ago, we received a lot of stories and developing news from Indonesian workers and students who were there. Users wrote their stories on the ground and published them directly.

IJNet: What are some other examples of stories users have submitted?

IZ: Novelist Pipiet Senja visited Hong Kong and found that many Indonesian workers there were lesbians. Later, KOMPAS.com published a related news story that referred to Senja’s Kompasiana story.

Intelligence analyst Prayitno Ramelan wrote his opinions about a plane crash and speculation that a parachute had been used by one of the victims. KOMPAS.com then used his opinion in a news story.

Traveler Daniel Mashudi accidentally found himself in a house belonging to a former presidential guard, who was living in poverty. After he wrote about his experience on Kompasiana, KOMPAS.com contacted him by phone to verify the story and promote it as news.

IJNet: How do you verify information?

IZ: We filter all content manually, and we always verify [the source of] submitted information. Kompasiana also has account verification mechanisms, through which every user verifies his account.

The admin desk’s job is to manage good content and remove content which violates the rules -- such as pornography, plagiarism, advertising, hoaxes, harsh language, and so on.

IJNet: Do you think filtering places limits on the concept of “citizen journalism”?

IZ: The practice of managing content, in my opinion, does not threaten the concept of citizen journalism. Users freely publish content on our social blog. But Kompasiana also does its part to ensure people who visit [can find and] read good articles.

Because of the wide diversity of our contributors, we have to have standards in content quality. Our advantage comes from the good content generated by our users, and our management of the content, which generates readers.

Jessica Weiss is a Buenos Aires-based writer.

Image CC-licensed on Flickr via Ikhlasul Amal.