On the salary issue: is it about SBY’s or journalists’?

A donation box for the “Coins for the President” movement was put up in the hallway of the DPR building in Jakarta to mock SBY who recently remarked that his salary had not increased for the past seven years.

If I could have my own coin donation box for each time I’ve been appalled by the behaviors of our dear members of representatives – such as this – I’d be rich by now.

Apart from the silliness of the coin movement (as if they got nothing else better to do – like drafting laws, for example), I’d like to take another view on the whole salary issue.

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A donation box for the “Coins for the President” movement was put up in the hallway of the DPR building in Jakarta to mock SBY who recently remarked that his salary had not increased for the past seven years.

If I could have my own coin donation box for each time I’ve been appalled by the behaviors of our dear members of representatives – such as this – I’d be rich by now.

Apart from the silliness of the coin movement (as if they got nothing else better to do – like drafting laws, for example), I’d like to take another view on the whole salary issue.

In general, for a public servant, if you have good renumeration, ideally it is the key for them to focus on their job and not worry about meeting their own basic needs, which can lead to corruption if the latter is unfulfilled. That’s why some bureaucracy reform programs aims to raise the salaries of public servants in the hopes of avoiding such situations. It is a common knowledge that formally, public servants are not paid that well. Whether these bureaucracy reform programs are effective or not, it’s a different story.

The Economist made a comparison of political leaders’ salaries, and SBY’s salary of $124,171 per year was more than 25 times greater than Indonesia’s GDP per person (measured on a purchasing-power parity basis). Based on the ranking, SBY was second to Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore.

Of course, SBY had no reason to complain about the salary as many other Indonesians were not as fortunate as him. That’s why a lot of people made an uproar about his whole “this is the sixth or seventh year that my salary has not been raised“-statement as they see it as inappropriate and insensitive.

The point where his salary did not increase, was a fact. The point where he complained – oh wait – did he ever say he complained?

My journalist friends whom I follow on twitter have said that the whole salary raise statement by SBY was taken out of proportion. It was meant as a joke, when SBY was promising to soldiers to improve their welfare. Then I guess some other irresponsible journalist or some other parties took this chance to spin the whole issue around and make it look like he was this ungrateful person who is not worthy of being president. I’m betting my money that the same parties who bashes SBY would be the same party eying for his position, in his salary (with expectations for it to increase, even), in 2014.

For those of you who corrected the story and got your facts straight, I salute you. For those of you who wanted to get some controversy and twisted the story, shame on you.

It brings me to the issue of whether currently journalism – the art of making a human face to a story – has died. Whatever happened to getting credible articles and a collected perspective on a story? Whatever happened to analysis and accuracy? If the media just convey information without the proper explanation and understanding of the context, what makes you different than Wikileaks, for example?

I believe this is the very reason why traditional media, ie. newspapers, TV, radio is losing out to other alternative social media or citizen journalism from bloggers like yours truly.

I still read the papers or watch the news on TV is because I want to get credible source of information – which I believe where journalists still have access to. Now if these people can’t get their facts straight, why should we listen to you, or even pay you for content?

Indonesia has one of the free-est Freedom of Press in the region. This, however, does not give you the freedom to be stupid.

Consumers are getting smarter, and they can distinguish between fact and opinion, and they can certainly can tell which TV stations are airing certain news about this political figure or why does this political party have more airtime than the rest.

There was a career talk about journalism in my school and I asked whether there is a future in it, despite all these rise about online media. The resource-person said that there is still a future for paid journalism, as long as you aim for accuracy and credibility in conveying your story. As a journalist you have to do your job to ask the right questions and not twist the answers to get your story out and about. Ultimately in this profession, it is about ethics, not money.

That’s why in the end, I reflected about the salary issue. Is it a story about SBY’s salary, or underneath it all, a story about a journalist’s salary?

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