Patsy Widakuswara is thousands of miles from home, but she regularly reaches millions of people in her native Indonesia as a Washington-based television journalist for the Voice of America (VOA).
Covering news events and major issues of the day from the White House to Capitol Hill and beyond, Widakuswara’s reports are aired regularly on eight of 11 national television stations in Indonesia and numerous local stations. She also serves as a senior producer, supervising others reporters and editing stories for VOA’s Indonesian Service.
“Our mission is tell the American story to the world accurately and reliability,” said Widakuswara. “We just don’t present the point of view of the government, but explore the issues from all sides of the debate. We try to present the whole debate.”
Widakuswara worked in Indonesia as a radio and television reporter and anchor, and as assistant producer for BBC Current Affairs and Channel 4 London before joining the VOA in 2003.
In her VOA reporting, Widakuswara said she seeks to make a connection to what is happening in the United States to Indonesia, and to find topics that will be of interest to her Indonesian audience.
During the 2012 U.S. presidential race, for example, she said her reporting often drew parallels with Jakarta’s gubernatorial race that was occurring at the same time.
She has reported on the U.S. drone policy, the confirmation fight over now confirmed CIA director John Brennan and the war against terrorism, topics of interest in Indonesia where there have been terror bombings and reports of groups with links to al Qaeda. She has reported from Guantanamo Bay twice, one time focusing on how terrorism detainees observed Ramadan for her largely Muslim television audience, and delivered numerous live news feeds when the White House announced the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
Widakusara also said her reporting has included human interest stories, with the focus on Indonesians living in America.
“I’ve done stories about successful Indonesian immigrants in the United States, something people back home enjoy hearing about,” she said. “We have explored how difficult it is to start a business in the U.S. and various cultural issues.”
Norman Goodman, the chief of VOA’s Indonesian Service, said Widakuswara is “the consummate professional, very serious about her work, has a good sense of the news and knows what the Indonesian audience wants.”
“She is the complete package. She can do everything,” said Goodman. “She is one of our go-to people.”
The VOA first went on-air in 1942 and is funded by the federal government, now broadcasting some 1,500 hours of news and information in 45 different languages to an estimated worldwide audience of 134 million people.
The Indonesian Service provides 55 hours a week of programming on radio and 4.2 hours on television, reaching almost 16 percent of the country’s adult population in a nation of 240 million people. Besides the news feeds, the service offers a magazine programs featuring human interest stories, a half hour talk show, and segments that deal with American trends, lifestyle, pop culture, celebrities, and interesting places in the U.S. The service also has a website, 330,000 Facebook fans and a presence on YouTube and Twitter.
Widakusara, who is married to an American employed by the Smithsonian Institution, said she loves journalism because it puts her “in the thick of things” and give her a platform to inform Indonesians about what is taking place in America.
“Journalism allows me to focus on issues that are important and that I think people should know about,” she said. “I feel a lot of pride and joy being a part of something bigger than myself and having a connection to humanity.”
This article was jointly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service, a group seeking to enhance the performance of the federal government, and washingtonpost.com. Go to http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/fedpage/players/ to read about other federal workers who are making a difference.