If you would have told Jerry five years ago that he would end up becoming a professional writer, he would have laughed. An IT graduate with a dream of becoming a filmmaker, Jerry now works as the online editor at Provoke! magazine. In this interview, the 25-year-old shares his thoughts on his love of movies, the things he dislikes most about Jakarta and how venting on his blog helped him get a job in media.
I’ve been to coffee shops and bookstores, but I don’t see your magazine anywhere. Where can I find it?
We distribute magazines to high schools and distros [local clothing stores]. But Provoke is not solely for high-school students but for all young readers. However, our biggest readership comes from high schools in Jakarta and Bandung. We distribute our magazine to 150 schools in Jakarta and 50 in Bandung. This year our goal is to get into the Yogyakarta and Surabaya markets.
How did the magazine start?
Provoke began as an underground music magazine. It came in a form of a small, folded newspaper that was distributed to people in the underground music scene. Until it was bought by Gundo Susiarjo, who tweaked the business strategy for the magazine but kept the same sense of idealism and vibrant spirit.
How did you come up with the name?
The idea was we wanted to provoke creative thoughts.
What kind of stories does Provoke cover?
Every issue that’s relevant to the youth. We still cover underground music, but we also have a rubric that we use which we call being “indo-pendent .” Every month, we interview people who we consider to be artists. We also have special reports, a column reviewing special events and many more features.
How long have you been working at Provoke?
I’ve been working here since June 2009. I came in as a writer, a photographer and a reporter. Then I started writing more feature articles. Now I’m the editor for Provoke-online.com, which means I’m more focused on the Web site.
How many people are working at the magazine?
Provoke! has around 20 to 25 full-time employees. It’s small, but we’re all close. Our time is flexible so there are times when we don’t have to report to the office to work.
What’s your circulation? How do you make profit from a readership that’s mostly high-school students?
Our circulation is around 30,000. The magazine is actually free, so we depend heavily on the money we get from advertising.
Tell us something about your college days.
I took up information systems. I know it has nothing to do with what my present career is. I just took it up because my family wouldn’t let me go to film school. So I picked out anything as long as I could graduate and the school was not far from my home.
Do you enjoy writing?
Yes I do. The funny thing is, I began to like writing only when I joined Provoke During my days in elementary and high school I used to contribute stuff to our school magazine, so I had that experience. In college I had a blog, which I used as part of my portfolio to apply for this job.
What kind of blog?
It’s a blog where I share some sarcastic ideas, because I used to be angry all the time [laughs], mad about everything. But lately, I haven’t had the time to blog anymore.
What do you think about the younger readers today?
I think they’re more informed, not only because of magazines like Provoke but also technology like the Blackberry, Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays with the youth’s knowledge of current events, it’s hard to tell if they are in high school, college or working.
What do you like most about Jakarta?
I’ve been living here since I was born so this is my home and I love it. Since I’m a movie buff, I like the fact that I can find or watch any movie that I want. Morally speaking, it’s wrong to buy pirated DVDs, but I can’t deny that I buy them. If I had to buy an original DVD every month, I would be left with no money. It’s a bad thing, but I need it [laughs]. I hope someday when I make more money I can buy original movies.
What don’t you like about Jakarta?
I don’t like the Metromini, the Kopaja and similar vehicles. Even motorcycles. I think there’s too many of them. It has come to the point where they annoy me.
What are your career plans?
I enjoy what I’m doing now and I love my job. It’s fun to write about people and get to know them and obtain experience, but what I really want to do is become a filmmaker.
What’s your favorite thing about Provoke?
The reason I wanted to join Provoke was because of its comic treatment of issues. It’s not really a humor magazine per se, but the first time I read it I thought it was really funny. Since then, I’ve always wanted to write humorous stories.
What do you think makes Provoke unique?
Artwork for the cover is one thing that makes it unique. We feature a different artist every month who comes up with a piece that basically sums up the theme of one particular issue.
Jerry was talking to Iwan Putuhena
Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe
Picture by Iwan Putuhena