[VIEWPOINT]Golf news is always par for courseWhat is news? Some say anything new is news, while others say everything around us can be news. Some say news is not when a dog bites a man but when man bites a dog.
Nowadays, the most appropriate definition of news is anything that is written by a reporter. In other words, although something might be good news, if a reporter does not write about it, it's merely one of many things that happened. That same story becomes news when it is written by a reporter. When it is written by a reader, it is just a letter to editor.
In the 1960s and '70s, charcoal briquet gas poisoning was always big news. Reporters lived with the danger, for they used charcoal briquet for heating as much or more than anyone else. In the '70s and '80s, there were a lot of traffic accidents involving public transportation, such as buses, subways and taxis. Again, reporters used those forms of transportation.
As more and more people, including reporters, started to become car owners, news of traffic accidents involving public transportation disappeared. Instead, stories about traffic signal system problems and road problems appeared.
Starting in the mid '90s, stories on golf appeared. One recent statistic says that the number of people in Korea who enjoy golf is 3 million. It's not right to condemn reporters as the main reason for the increase of golf stories in the news. One thing is for certain, however: The interest in golf by reporters has greatly increased.
Another Masters golf championship recently came to an end with the same winner as last year. Tiger Woods triumphed for the third time and, as predicted, every sports section of every newspaper was bombarded with golf stories, including the JoongAng Ilbo. The reaction from the readers was split into two camps. Some complained that there was not enough description of the most critical moments of the Masters. Others grumbled that there were so many thing that they were curious about but the papers failed to satisfy them. Most of the readers followed the Masters by rising early in the morning and tuning in on television.
But some complained that there were so much other interesting sports news, such as the professional basketball playoffs, the opening of the baseball season and news about the national soccer team that will soon be playing in the World Cup. They said, Why so much fuss about Tiger Woods? He's not even a Korean. Many of those complaining surely view golf as a luxury sport that only creates rifts between social classes. Those same people think that the Korean Peninsula is too small for golf. When the subject is golf, there is no middle ground.
Those people who like to go out on a course are often in love with the sport. They read golf books, watch videotapes or follow tournaments on television to improve their games. On weekdays they go to a practice range and on weekends they head for a course. Their chief complaint is that there are far too few golf courses compared to the number of people who enjoy playing the game.
Those who despise golf have been known to detest the people who love it. The anti-golfers don't hesitate to see the sport as the reason for the destruction of the environment, and think that too much space is occupied by too few people.
Hence, when writing a golf story there is no way to avoid being criticized. One side will argue that the story is not enough, while the other side will complain that there is too much being written on the subject.
Korea's newspapers are like the bed of the notorious robber Procrutes in Greek mythology. Procrutes used his iron bed to kill anyone. He cut down enemies who were taller than the bed, and made the bed smaller to kill shorter foes.
Korean newspapers do not add more space in accordance with the length of the story. They have to fit a story into a pre-arranged space. If a golf story comes in long, other stories must suffer. If other stories are long, golf stories suffer.
It's hard to dance to one tune only. Perhaps journalists in Korea could become more courageous and publish a golf newspaper or create a golf section. But whatever happens, there will be always criticism.
The writer is sports news editor of the Joongang Ilbo.
by Sohn Jang-hwan