Telum Talks To: Sonya Michaella from IDN Times
Interview

Telum Talks To: Sonya Michaella from IDN Times

Telum caught up with Sonya Michaella of IDN Times, who was awarded as the Best Online Journalist by Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Adam Malik Awards 2024. It recognises media and journalists who actively cover the country’s diplomatic efforts

1. Can you share with us what your typical day looks like?
At IDN Times, my focus is to cover diplomacy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the ministry itself, as well as Indonesia’s foreign policy. I would attend the ministry’s weekly press briefing, translate articles from newswires, interview experts on current issues, and attend events created by think tanks, embassies, or foreign organisations.

If there are stories that interest journalists outside my beat, such as fighter jets, we will discuss it with defence journalists on who will cover the story. Conflicts between countries are also popular among our readers.

I try to submit an article at 6.30 am because many online media consumers read in the morning. Press events that take place at night would be published the following day. IDN Times also has a special interview called Ambassador’s Talk, where we interview ambassadors based in Jakarta or Indonesian ambassadors residing abroad. It will be published on YouTube or live-streamed on Instagram.

2. What are the challenges of covering foreign news?
Online media requires journalists to write a number of articles daily. Sometimes, it is a slow news day with no press events from any institutions, national day celebrations, or stories happening abroad. When it happens, I would contact news sources to ask for their commentary on certain issues or translate news from newswires.

3. You have eight years of experience covering diplomacy; can you share with us what the experience has been like?
I graduated with a degree in English Literature. When I first started as a journalist in 2015 for Medcom.id, I knew nothing about international issues. Back then, I had to read journals to understand an issue. I also chatted with senior journalists covering the same beat from other outlets to get a better understanding of an issue.

4. Tips for journalists who are new to covering international news?
Everything is easier now because Indonesian embassies or consulates general are actively posting their updates through social media. These days, foreign media and local media are also publishing explainer articles so we can get a comprehensive explanation, such as understanding what the International Court of Justice does and so on. There is no reason not to understand diplomatic issues.

Young journalists should ask questions in doorstep interviews or every time there is a question and answer session. Don’t be shy when it comes to asking for news sources’ contacts from senior journalists, as long as you’re being polite. I would also recommend journalists who are new to this beat to see the root of a problem to avoid bias.

5. What does winning the Adam Malik Award mean for journalists and media?
Personal branding for both journalists and media outlets. This award can boost my resume, and IDN Times is recognised as a credible media when it comes to covering diplomatic issues.

6. What are your plans in the near future?
Winning the Adam Malik Awards has boosted my confidence. This is proof that working mothers can achieve. Society argues that women who have children should stay home and take care of their children. This achievement breaks the argument; working mothers can become journalists working in a fast-paced environment. As long as we have a supportive system, we can still work as journalists.

7. Tips for communications professionals working in foreign affairs?
Treat media as a part of your stakeholders.

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