Telum Talks To... Irma Garnesia, Researcher, Tirto.id

Telum Talks To... Irma Garnesia, Researcher, Tirto.id

Irma Garnesia is a young researcher who now represents Tirto.id helping Facebook to do third-party fact-checking for them. Irma told Telum about her role as a Researcher in the media and the importance of having this role in the editorial team.

Could you please tell us a bit about you and what do you do as a Researcher?
I am Irma Garnesia, a Researcher at Tirto.id since 2018. As a Researcher, I cover data journalism stories mostly on politics, economy, public policy, and social issues. In 2019, I was appointed to do the fact-checking initiative and representing Tirto.id as the third-party fact-checker of Facebook. This role requires me to debunk the onslaught of questionable viral content, fake news articles, rumors and other unverified claims. Besides work, I also organise monthly meet-ups in Journocoders Indonesia, an online community that provide workshops for journalist and data enthusiast in Jakarta, Indonesia. With Journocoders Indonesia, I have been giving on-demand data journalism workshop to several cities in Indonesia. 

Why is the role of researchers important in the media? What makes it different from being a journalist in general?
The role of researchers is important in the media as a way to prove the credibility of the newsroom. Researchers are mainly tasked with processing data, analysis, visualization, to ensure the accountability of the data used in the reporting. Work as a researcher in the media is slightly different from the work of journalists or researchers who are specialised in education. Being a researcher in the media itself is like being "stranded" between two things; to become a journalist or a researcher. For example, researchers apply general concepts of research, methodologies in data processing, and in-depth analysis, and for us in media, skills as journalists are also needed, such as verification of sources and knowledge related to current affairs.

What skills do researchers need in the media today?
Writing skills, basic knowledge of research and research methods, how to search and compare data credibility. Surely it will be an advantage if you can process data through Spreadsheets and understand various tools used for data visualisation, such as Tableau, Flourish, and Google Earth Pro.

What are some challenges of being a researcher in the media in Indonesia?
Not many media in Indonesia have special roles of researchers inside their editorial team. This limits journalists developing their career as a Researcher. Some media also put researchers in the newsroom only to support the editorial team. They are not given the space to process and develop the data they have into data-based writings or videos that are enjoyable to read or watch, for example.

What are 2020 media trends in Indonesia? What news is likely to be big this year?
After the political year in 2019, there's probably no other big news this year, except for the regional elections (Pilkada). I think another massive thing that people will talk about is not just a series of events, but the way media spread the news. For example, the latest sexual harassment case by an Indonesian in the UK. The highlight is not only the case but also the way how the media package it and the various ways of people consuming the issue. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook will still be the best place to discuss these issues.

You often train on data journalism in various regions in Indonesia. Is there anything that needs to be improved from the media industry in Indonesia?
It will be very good if not only the national media can provide space for the development of data journalism, but also regional media. Based on the workshop that I gave with Journocoders, there were actually quite a number of journalists who were interested in developing data journalism and learning the basics of presenting reportage with data.

What do beginners need to learn about data journalism?
Actually, it's very basic. Most important is certainly the willingness to learn and do a lot of practice because data journalism itself implements different practices and analyses in each of the coverage or investigation projects. I'm also still learning a lot on how to develop analysis and make interesting visualisations.

What is the most interesting story you've covered so far?
In-depth coverage on the one year anniversary of the Palu disaster. At that time, I went straight to the field to collect data and guess what kind of visualisation that could be done from Palu. Besides dealing with the difficulty of confirming data from the government, I also checked data from NGOs that were suitable for the visualisation. What was interesting at that time was mapping community complaints in several temporary shelters in Palu, Sigi and Donggala, and mapping the location of the Government-built temps and its vulnerability to disasters. The results can be read here.

Will there be a new breakthrough this year from Tirto.id?
This year we will continue what has been done in previous years: data writing, fact-checking initiatives, and video data. We will also prioritise more on collaborative projects.

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