By Prodita Sabarini | 2013/14 IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow
March 13, 2014
I am sitting in the cafeteria of The New York Times building. From the 14th floor with glass windows all around, you can see the New York midtown high rises and Empire State Building.
Yesterday, two apartment buildings in East Harlem collapsed due to an explosion after a gas leak. The buildings were once there and now they’re not there anymore. It reminds me how old some of the buildings in New York are.
I am almost at the end of my fellowship. And almost at the end of my infatuation with winter. (People tell me ‘Just you wait, you’ll be sick of winter’, but I stubbornly believed that it would never happen to me. I was wrong). After 5 months in Boston, I am now living in the city where I always wished I would come to. Ever since I read Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being where Sabina the free and independent woman loves New York for its accidental beauty, it had become a place that I knew I would set foot on. And now it is.
Part of the fellowship is internships at The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Both experiences gave me improved set of skills and a sense of American news judgment.
At The Boston Globe, I was under the editorial team, an independent and separate team from the news section. I saw first hand howThe Globe decides the issues important for them to comment upon. The editors and writers pitch stories and find an angle to highlight. With The Boston Globe, I sharpened my observational and analysis skills, coming into conclusions, and arguments, musings about culture and society for an American audience local to Boston. Here I contributed to an editorial on Indonesia-Australia relations, wrote opinion-pieces about Saudi Arabian women driving movement, U.S. foreign policy on Indonesia’s human rights abuses in West Papua, and a commentary on the cultural significance of a new Muslim comic superhero for American society.
Writing commentaries is a whole new set of skills altogether than news writing. You have to have your facts right, just as in reporting news, but contrary to news reports, where the reporter is a neutral conveyor of events, facts and analysis based on your information gathering, with commentaries, I find I have to find my own stance and my own voice and communicate something insightful from beneath what is happening around us.
At The Boston Globe, I learned too to write for their audience: Americans who are connected strongly to Boston. So I find out that while the issue of gay rights is important and much advanced compared to other states in the U.S. the situation of LGBT people in Indonesia, might not be as interesting for The Boston Globe readers.
At The Times, I am under the wing of Metro section, and I try to navigate the city and find stories that I can do, with my perspective as a foreigner and as a reporter for the The Times’ most local section. A challenge, but can be done. I filed a story yesterday, which is still in the hands of the editors. I searched for the Indonesian community in New York and ask them pertinent questions about the genocide in 1965.
Amidst all this, of course I still make some time to visit the city’s art scene. The Whitney Biennale just opened. And a stunning exhibition on woodcut print art at the Morgan Library and Museum took my breath away. The MET was a bit crowded, but I managed to see El Greco’s paintings and Caravaggio’s “The Denial of Saint Peter” and also walked into a real pyramid that was reconstructed at the MET.
So, I have around 2 more weeks at The Times, and 3 more weeks in New York. More stories and more art is my goal. I better get going.