Atang Ruswita Journalism: 2+2=5!

ONCE upon the time, there was an all-powerful king who had a son. The King loved the prince very much. To prepare for his future, the King is looking for a teacher who can educate the potential heir to the throne. A teacher was chosen who would accompany the prince’s education.


One of the subjects that must be taught is arithmetic. Then the dialogue takes place:

“2+2 how much?” ask the teacher

“Five!” answered the prince.


“Wow wrong!… Should be four!” The teacher replied in a slightly high-pitched tone.

Feeling blamed, the child was crying.

Hearing the love child cry, the King was furious.


From behind the curtain, he immediately threw out his anger at the teacher. The king also ordered the beheading of this unlucky teacher.


Sometime later the King looked for another teacher. Chosen a teacher from the outskirts of the country. The new teacher must be careful teaching.


Here comes the counting lesson:

“2+2 how much?”

“Five…” replied the prince.


“Truuuue… But… one plus!” The teacher answered, clapping his hands.

The prince laughed happily because he didn’t feel blamed but he knew that 2+2 should equal four.

The teacher escaped the death penalty.


I got this story from Mr. Atang Ruswita (1933-2003), the founder of Pikiran Rakyat, the most powerful and influential newspaper in West Java Province, Indonesia. He wrote this in the 1990s on his special column on the front page of the paper.

This story is light but has moral lessons.

Kang Atang then published his articles in a book titled; Permen dan Receh (Candy and Coins)

The title of this book reflects the humility of Atang Ruswita. He didn’t want to name a great book or be a propagandist. The title is light. Candy is a small but sweet treat. Coins are not big money. There is an idiom “just my two cents”. This sentence comes from someone who gives an opinion, but humbly and does not force that opinion to be accepted. Two cents is a small change.


Kang Atang (as he likes to be called.  Kang or Akang in Sundanese means “older brother”) tells about what Pikiran Rakyat journalism should be. He applies journalism that is in accordance with Sundanese philosophy: siger tengah (standing in the middle, moderate,  bridging), caina herang laukna beunang (catch fish without making the water cloudy), silih asah (mutual learning), silih asih (mutual love) silih asuh (mutual care), silih wangikeun (mutual elevate) and nyintreuk teu piambekeun (flicking ears that don’t make one angry)

Kang Atang wrote this story, in the midst of the voices of young journalists inside and outside the Pikiran Rakyat who wanted the press to speak loudly against the then President Suharto. As a young journalist, I include those with adrenaline rush.


But that’s how Kang Atang dealt with…


He liked to appear suddenly in the newsroom, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the middle of the night. His trademark is, talking with a smile, sometimes laughing loudly, while flanking kretek cigarettes. When Kang Atang came, all the reporters surrounded him, there was almost no distance, but his charisma was still visible.


Kang Atang said,  Pikiran Rakyat lives in the midst of the Sundanese people. The spirit of Sundanese philosophy mentioned are the principles and ethics of the Pikiran Rakyat journalism. This is what makes the newspaper and society love, care and learn each other, and mutual elevate.


The current terms: the engagement of the Pikiran Rakyat with the community is very strong.


Kang Atang is right….


Many new media emerge with sarcasm criticism style, bombastic titles, and act like prosecutors. Media like that, said Kang Atang, is a sign that it has no effect, only makes noise for the sake of circulation. Many turned out, bombastic media appeared and soon died. “Journalists should not be like prosecutors who are making accusations. You must still uphold the presumption of innocence!” said Atang.




Budhiana Kartawijaya

Sekretaris Perusahaan Pikiran Rakyat. Meniti karir sebagai wartawan di Pikiran Rakyat.

One thought on “Atang Ruswita Journalism: 2+2=5!”

  1. Alfatihah kanggo Pak Atang Ruswita. Impresi positif terhadap almarhum mesti dijaga dan hal-hal baik yang ditinggalkannya untuk Pikiran Rakyat, pers, Jawa Barat, sunda, dan bangsa, kuduna oge dipelihara dan ditingkatkan, entong malah jadi sabalikna..

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: