Regional Newspapers Reflect Their Outlook on the Coal Industry [Coal Asia Vol. 25]

Regional Newspapers Reflect Their Outlook on the Coal Industry


By Ian Wollff

The author is an expatriate principal geologist of about 28 years experience in the Indonesian exploration & mining industry, and is employed by an international consultant company.



Newspapers have an impact in shaping the local readers outlook regarding the coal industry in their area. The Jakarta newspapers coal news items tend to be focused largely on policy, politics plus finance and investment. This review analyzes what the regional newspapers portray of their coal news. Some 1,502 clippings were taken from 7 local newspapers that circulate in coal producing regions between January 2010 and May 2012. They are a reflection of the reporters work, and of the editors outlook.

News items can often be repeated with minor variations over several days, or news from another district can be included in other regions paper. Repeated items are counted here as separate news items as this frequency is part of the overall impact to the reader. This review sought to place each item in only 1 category, though clearly many news items could be placed in several categories –say a traffic accident could be trucking or police. No distinction was made if the news was positive or negative towards the coal industry – say a mining permit holder was warned, or some mining permits were issued.

Table of coal clipping analysis

See the full table of coal clipping analysis

The content

  • The coal trucking & barging issues are seen to reflect what is readily identified as local news. However similar amounts of news of trucking news / accidents apply to agriculture products (palm oil) and general trade, that tend to moderate the news impact specifically related to coal. Such news tends to focus on accidents and road degradation.
  • Mines department & forestry permit news tends to be balanced, with some permits being called to be revoked by community groups, while mines / forestry department demonstrates the growth of industry with the issuance of permits.
  • Land & environment conflict issues are often brought up by local LSM’s whereupon the local government response tends to call for investigation, and such matters often seem to fade away.
  • Local government supervision is principally the DPRD undertaking its roll to receive complaints from the community, to conduct investigations etc. The general indirect trend of DPRD news is that they are key supporters of mining, and principally the only force to counter the anti mining lobby. It appears the DPRD is the prominent body in the news, rather than the Bupati. Occasionally the local chamber of commerce provides support for miners.
  • The police & court news is often when an errant miner has his equipment impounded, and only rarely where some criminal activity is undertaken associated with the coal industry.
  • Advertisements appear to be underutilized by the mining industry, and those associated with implementation of AMDAL seem to be less than what is implied by the new Clear & Clean lists – perhaps not all regions always require mining companies to advertise through newspapers.
  • CSR news is generally seen as good news, and often a platform for aspiring politicians & senior administrators, but sometimes also complaints calling for more contribution to CSR programs.
  • Value to local government tends to be about the royalties and income for the district, and provides an insight to the economic importance to the region. Some articles call for more royalties etc.
  • Investment news tends to reflect items outlining production or planned investment in new mines and tends to reflect the maturity of the mining industry in that region.
  • Central government policy tends largely to be news of the local government implementing the central governments regulations. Only rarely do we see the DPRD begin to question or redirect the central governments policy.
  • Only minor articles about the international coal news, possible designed by the editors to enhance local identity as being part of the international arena.
  • Generally about a third of the articles mention the names of coal companies, and even less for coal trucking incidents. In many cases companies are not named, but referred to by their initials. This would seem to be an editorial policy.

The outlook

The development of regional autonomy in 2004 was very much linked to the allocation of mining rights to the districts, wherein royalty and income would be more assured to flow to the districts. Thus, the principal news items about the DPRD’s management of the coal industry and the value gained through coal royalties are significant items that demonstrate regional autonomy is working towards a political & fiscal maturity.

The news items emphasize that the districts are very much focused on the implementation of the mining industry, with only the beginnings of concern in some areas about being in a position to influence the broader policy issues that are sent down from central government.

The longest running stories tend to be the rare cases of public officials accused of wrongdoing. Herein the newspapers appear to fulfill their media roll of supporting a public desire for transparency.

The newspapers give a voice to all parties, the community groups, government and companies. It would appear each of these parties have a different ability in dealing with these regional newspapers, and there is clear opportunity for each to improve their skills in using this local media.

Should editors begin to name the companies that hire local trucking companies to carry their product (coal, palm oil etc) in relation to trucking incidents etc, then this may lead to greater participation by such coal & palm oil companies to ensure improved training & responsibility by such trucking firms. Many accidents are not the fault of the truckers, but the growing number of trucks does increase road usage.

Editors have given coal a status rating, wherein it may be referred to a “black gold”, or some unrelated news item is raised in importance because it was reported to occur in a “coal area” etc. Simply putting a picture of a coal filled barge on the river gives the impression that the region is doing well, and so people feel good.