Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange Q&A: Indah Nuritasari

By Anna Gordover

January 18, 2023

With the Indonesian Lantern, Indah Nuritasari has already created a powerful platform for the Indonesian community to find its voice in American media. But through her participation in the Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange, she’s gained resources to take its impact to the next level.

Nuritasari is the founder and CEO of the Indonesian Lantern, an online news source serving Philadelphia’s Indonesian population. The magazine is published in both Indonesian and English. It covers news, culture, the economy, and more. It also produces video content featured on its YouTube channel, such as documentaries and filmed podcast interviews shining a light on the lives of Indonesian individuals across Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange launched in March 2022 as an accelerator program for local BIPOC media entrepreneurs by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund. Over the following five months, participants went through training on operations, revenue and monetization, and marketing and branding to help their businesses grow and thrive. They also each received grant support, professional coaching, and training from the Zebras Unite Co-Op and Black and Brown Founders.

Speaking about the ongoing effect that her organization is having on the surrounding community, Nuritasari said, “We intend to be the trusted resource for Indonesian culture, history, and business – the place where the Indonesian community can have a voice in mainstream America and finally be recognized.”

We recently spoke with Nuritasari about how her participation in the Founders Exchange has amplified her work to achieve this goal, her biggest takeaways as a member of the PMFE, and the projects we can expect to see from the Indonesian Lantern in the future.

This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. Kiara Santos contributed reporting.

Tell us a bit about the project(s) you worked on as part of PMFE.

As part of the PMFE team, we were working on an immigrant storytelling project that includes several video podcasts of interviews conducted with Indonesian immigrants from South Philadelphia of all walks of life. So far, we have published on our Youtube channel video podcasts of interviews with Rissa Asnan and Kristin D. on their journey to making dangdut music in America; Riani Abdul Rasyid on her life in America; Hadi Sumoro and his experience coming from Purwokerto, Indonesia to become a part-time professor at Temple University; and Lukas Kusuma on his journey to becoming a pastor in South Philly. 

What problem were you trying to solve initially, and why was solving the problem strategically important for your organization?

The problem that I saw in the news world was a lack of representation of the Indonesian community’s stories and struggles. The Indonesian Lantern’s original main objective is to inform, empower and celebrate the Indonesian community and diaspora in America. We intend to be the trusted resource for Indonesian culture, history, and business – the place where the Indonesian community can have a voice in mainstream America and finally be recognized. Considering this, strategically, we thought we should do something different to promote the voices of the Indonesian community. We wanted to expand our representation from written article form to visual media. Thus, we thought video podcasts would be a great way to conduct our interviews and meet the values of our organization.  

What were your biggest takeaways from the Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange? What did you gain from the formal programming and coaching? What did you learn from your fellow founders? 

My biggest takeaways from the PMFE cohort included the importance of using an accountability tracker to measure the week’s productivity, as well as the importance of each staff member understanding how to bring in revenue. My coach taught me this, as she emphasized how important it was for our organization to bring in revenue, which is the backbone of how our projects can operate. Funding is a key priority. Since [the Founders Exchange], we have trained more staff members on how to bring in more clients and money for the Indonesian Lantern. Despite them being hesitant at first, they are now more comfortable with the process, and we have been getting more funding through advertisement and grants. From my fellow founders, I have learned to stay focused on our goals, keep the good work in serving our community, and share experience and opportunities with other media founders.

How has this work impacted the community you serve?

Our work with the PMFE cohort has taught me new skills that have helped with the future progress of the Indonesian Lantern, including our accountability tracker and bringing on new staff members to seek out funding and clients. Through our education, we are able to better sustain the business and continue doing our work for the Indonesian community. Our funding helped support an art and writing workshop to commemorate Indonesian Independence Day – which promoted cultural pride in the Indonesian youth. In addition, we have done several video podcasts for the Indonesian Lantern, which have allowed for more representation of the Indonesian community. We hope to use part of our funds toward a film covering undocumented Indonesian immigrants, as they deserve to be compensated accordingly considering the hardships they go through. Hopefully through this, we can give back to the community monetarily and morally. 

Were there any unexpected plans or challenges that you had to overcome during the program? What did you learn from it?

There were several challenges to the way in which me and my team communicated. I believe we missed the meeting for our first pitch because I was in Indonesia and I miscalculated the time difference and missed the meeting by one hour. So we lost the grant opportunity, and the rest of my staff were not aware we had to do a pitch for that meeting. I believe if we were better organized during that time, we would have been able to do the pitch and potentially get more funding. It is with group work like this where I feel we struggled a bit in keeping up and communicating with each other on what was expected of everyone to contribute. After this, I have learned to set up weekly check-in meetings to discuss plans for the week, better organize our tasks, and have everyone on the same page. This has helped dramatically in assigning individual tasks, checking in on our productivity for the previous week, and updating everyone on new opportunities, grants, and events they can sign up for. I feel that this has improved our workflow very well. 

How did the program contribute to your sense of power and/or self-efficacy in creating change in Philadelphia’s media ecosystem?

This program empowered and inspired me to continue fighting for the success of the Indonesian Lantern, as I saw so many other minority owned media organizations do exactly what I do for their communities. It was in this space that I saw how hard everyone worked to keep their organization afloat, and the amount of time and energy they dedicated to their craft. Starting and maintaining a small organization like this has been difficult to do, as I also have a load of other responsibilities to keep up with. However, being in a space with like-minded individuals made me feel like I could reach my goals of gaining more funding, pursuing more projects, and maintaining the integrity of Indonesian Lantern. It also gave me hope that one day, we will be able to publish a book about Indonesian immigrant stories, as this is one of the major goals I have for the Indonesian Lantern. Through this, I hope to change Philadelphia’s media ecosystem by being an organization whose voice and presence is difficult to ignore. We also plan to host more events and workshops to promote Indonesian Lantern’s work and grow our audience. 

What’s next? How are you planning to continue this work?

We plan on continuing this work through pursuing more projects of different media types, such as mini-documentaries, video podcasts, and eventually a book. We also hope to host more events and workshops in order to get the community involved and promote our organization. We want to grow our audience and reach more people so that the voices of the Indonesian community can be heard more. Through these projects and goals, we hope to have more opportunities to promote Indonesian stories.

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