Innovative journalism and creative non-fiction – Q&A with Nivell Rayda, The Jakarta Globe

By November 14, 2014 Blog

Storyology is almost upon us – from December 1 – 4 Metro Screen and the Chauvel Cinema are hosting the media event of the year.

The four-day conference brings together some of the brightest minds in the media industry from around the world. We had the chance to pick the brain of Storyology speaker Nivell Rayda, news editor at The Jakarta Globe and author of This Home Was Never Mine. As a journalist and creative non-fiction writer, Nivell’s experience in the Indonesian media industry gives him a unique take on journalism and writing in 2014.

“Journalism should not only strive to inform, but also inspire change for the better.”

Q. Introduce us to a day in the life of your role. What is the most exciting part about your job right now?

Currently I’m a news editor at The Jakarta Globe newspaper, where I develop and edit stories from journalists and contributors in the field. The most exciting part about my work is watching stories taking shape, and helping journalists develop their skills and grow in terms of the quality of their reporting. Another exciting part is conceptualising how stories are presented, combining text, photography, illustration and graphics.

Q. How would you describe journalism to someone who had never come across it before?

Journalism is not only about presenting news of the day and interviewing top government officials, but also bringing to the surface stories that people need to know. Journalists have a responsibility to those who are voiceless, victims of injustice and the government’s insensitivity in formulating and executing their programs and policies. Journalism should not only strive to inform, but also inspire change for the better.


Q. Tell us about how you have seen journalism change in the last five years and what you think has driven this change. 

Journalism has changed a lot in the last five years, particularly with so many readers now moving to the internet. Media, as well as journalists, are slow to adapt to these changes. There is a false notion that everything, every story, every piece of information needs to be presented as fast as possible. As a result, accuracy and quality suffers as the media strives for hits, views and clicks.

There is also a danger of the relentless pursuit of web hits and views. Media and journalists are becoming more and more fixated with finding sensational stories with bombastic headlines, the weird and bizarre stories, while stories that matter are sidelined.

At the same time, readers are so overwhelmed with information that most stories have little meaning anymore. People are confused and have little idea of who to trust.

I think journalists will slowly come to the realisation that they don’t need to be the fastest, that they can never beat social media and what people want is for journalism to make sense of the clutter of information they are bombarded with.

Q. What are your top three favourite publications right now and why?

Medium: A moderated online forum of writers and journalists. I can see it in the future being an incubator for new and emerging writers to hone their writing skills. You can also find stories you won’t find anywhere else.

The New York Times: I’m excited because it is one of few old publications which has adapted well to the explosion of the internet. Rather than reinventing their approach of news reporting to fit the digital model, they instead see the internet as an opportunity to advance well-established journalism standards and ideals, presenting stories that would otherwise get killed due to space constraints found in print and appealing to a global audience who want stories that don’t only revolve around the US and reflect its views.

Storyful: A subscription-based social media news agency. I like how they focus on verifying information found on social media and present these case studies. In a way, they apply the same old journalism and reporting standards to a new medium.

Q. How do you continue to be innovative in an industry like journalism?

There are countless opportunities to excel and revolutionise the industry, especially with the internet. In the old days, there were clear distinctions and well-defined roles of print, radio and television, which has blurred thanks to the internet. I see journalists becoming more and more like generalists. It is no longer relevant for journalists to be good at just one format. They need to know how to aggregate information, research, connect with new people online, write text, take photos, shoot videos, publish them and promote their own work.

We are seeing collaborations between media and technology to present news in new, exciting, interactive and engaging ways. There are also collaborations between the people telling the stories and the people who read them. Not all collaborations work, of course, but when they do they are brilliant.

Q. Tell us about your session at Storyology. Why are you speaking and what can the audience expect from your presentation?

I will be speaking at two sessions. One is on challenges and opportunities of reporting in Asia, particularly my own country of Indonesia. Indonesia presents a wealth of stories for journalists to explore. It is so culturally diverse, so historically complex and there are still many challenges ahead that need to be addressed.

Another session will be on how to apply creativity in non-fiction writing. I have recently written my first book, a narrative non-fiction on the persecution of a religious minority group in Indonesia. I have personally discovered a lot of creative ways to write non-fiction in the process, which I am excited to share at Storyology.


Interested in hearing more from Nivell at Storyology? Tickets are on sale now – early bird discounts close November 14!