| Tribun Timur is a local newspaper in Makassar, the capital city of the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi, which benefits from citizen journalists. It was first published two years ago and has become one of the leading newspapers in Makassar, with a distribution of 50,000 copies and about 120,000 readers. |
In a talk with Tribun Timur Editor-in-Chief Dahlan, he explained that, as a new newspaper, his company has a limited budget for sending reporters overseas, although there are always newsworthy events, such as the pilgrimage to Mecca. In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world, the media have always had special coverage of the Hajj and the pilgrimage process. The mainstream media usually send reporters to Mecca and for special coverage of the events during the Hajj season.
"We practically do not have a special budget to send our reporters to Mecca, which is why we are trying to maintain cooperation with people who are going to Mecca, asking them to send reports to us. We started this kind of cooperation last year, and we have gained so much popularity among our readers, because the stories are unique and original. Thanks to the idea of citizen journalists, and we might say that our newspaper benefits from this model," explained Dahlan.
The Hajj is a holy procession for Muslims, and each year more than 200,000 Indonesian Muslims travel to Mecca to fulfill this religious call, as one of the pillars of Islam.
In the 2005 season Tribun Timur received daily reports from two pilgrims, and editors in Makassar rewrote the stories before publishing them. The stories varied from the circumstances of the pilgrims, weather conditions, lack of coordination between Saudi authorities and Indonesian Hajj officials, to the food shortages experienced by some pilgrims.
The citizen reporters in Mecca send summaries of the stories via SMS (short message service), and the newspaper in Makassar makes international phone calls for further information. "Before we make international calls, we explain to the citizen reporters that an international roaming fee might be applied and that, unfortunately, we cannot cover the cost," said Dahlan.
Based on the experience from the previous Hajj season, this year Tribun Timur feels more confident asking six citizen reporters for special coverage, one of the reporters being the mayor of Makassar, Ilham Arif Sirajuddin, who will lead the pilgrims from Makassar.
"Again, we experienced cooperation, as we received comments and letters from our readers saying that they are glad to see someone they know (the citizen reporters' families, friends and relatives), who are providing first-hand stories from Mecca," stated Dahlan.
When at least 345 pilgrims died in a stampede during a stone-throwing ritual this Jan. 12, Tribun Timur received various first-hand stories from its citizen reporters, enabling it to provide comprehensive coverage.
"I don't think we could have such a rich coverage without the citizen reporters in Mecca. I am happy that we implemented this kind of journalism a year ago, so our international news is not merely dependent on global news agencies. We would not complain against the limited budget, but are trying to improve our relationship with the citizen reporters."
Last December Tribun Timur also received extensive first-hand reports about anti-WTO demonstrations in Hong Kong, sent by an Indonesian woman activist who joined the protests and discussions.
Harian Tribun Timur, Makassar (Sulawesi Selatan, Indonesia)
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