When the going gets tough, some of the journalists get their entrepreneurial spirits going.
The news media industry has already had a rough ride even before the pandemic as competition from social media and influencers sapped away advertising revenue. This has forced some media to downsize or even close down.
The pandemic has only made it worse. Many journalists, even if they could retain their job and not face pay cuts, still could not help feeling less than secure as the economic effects of the pandemic continued to ravage the economy and the news industry.
To make things worse, journalists who work in the industry, who used to be constantly on the move from one media event to another to cover the news, now find themselves mostly house-bound. Social distancing has now forced them to rely more reporting on online press conferences, webinars, and virtual press events such as product launches.
Faced with this double whammy of job uncertainty and immobility enforced by the pandemic, which has also cut down on their travel, events to cover and thus reduce the content they produce, many of the journalist friends we know have now become online entrepreneurs.
Sri Anindiati Nursastri, more popularly known as Sastri, from Kompas.com for instance, used her Instagram account @saastrii to sell healthy snacks.
Also using Instagram to propel his new business is Johanes Randy, from Detik.com who has taken to selling coffee via @liffe.coffee. “I started this as a hobby since I have more free time while working at home.
“I use the time that I would have spent commuting to work and other venues, to take care of my small business. It has become an alternative way for me to earn an extra income,” he said.
Helinsa Rasputri, who had left Kumparan.com not long ago has also started a business which for her also reminded her of her hometown, by selling Karonese milk tea via @tehsusukaro “At first I did it for fun, as a hobby, but since I could not go home due to the pandemic and I felt homesick, I turned this longing into a business.
She comes from Kabupaten Karo, a district in North Sumatra that is home to the Karo Batak. “I want to share how good this milk tea is with friends and customers,” she said.
Also inspired by her hometown is Eka Nurjanah, who works as a video journalist at Kumparan.com. She hails from the Central Javanese town of Brebes that is known for its salted-eggs and visitors would buy them as oleh-oleh for their colleagues, friends and families when on holiday.
Together with her partner and using the Instagram account, @eka_egg she launched a small business and she was now more serious about managing the marketing strategy and packaging,to grow the business.
Sindo Newspaper editor Sali Pawiatan realized that she needed a back-up plan if things do not go well at her publication, that has already been reducing some of the facilities and benefits for its journalists. Her answer was to use the Instagram account @pempek_wakkocu to sell the Jambinese delicacy under the trading name of Pempek Wakkocu.
In a time when media houses can provide job security to journalists, this development could lead to questions as to whether such activities might give rise to conflicts of interest.
This, however, is an extraordinary time, when the pandemic has accelerated the decline of many media houses and there is no end in sight as to how long and deep the economic impact will be on our society.
It is therefore refreshing to see such resourcefulness among our journalists and they deserve to be supported by everyone who has depended on the same profession before. So if you feel peckish, need a cup of Java or have other food cravings make sure you look up some of our journalist friends and give them the support they deserve.