&#91EDITORIALS&#93The fivefold nature of news

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[EDITORIALS]The fivefold nature of news

The Blue House has notified all government agencies to summarize news items about the government, classify them into five categories and report them to the Blue House daily. This notice carries the danger of dividing media organizations into friend or foe, and ultimately could restrict the critical function of the media.
The Blue House has every right to collect news to analyze the direction of public opinion on government policies. Further, detecting and correcting misreported news is part of protecting the public’s right to know. The problem is that the Blue House is asking government agencies to categorize news according to its “character.” This is to request the agencies not to read the news objectively but to “evaluate” it arbitrarily. The Blue House claim that this is “not a monitor on the media, but a method to observe public opinion on policies” is hardly persuasive. Public opinion on a policy can only be positive, negative or mixed. To ask the agencies to categorize the news into “constructive criticism” and “malicious criticism” is to invite arbitrary judgment. The Blue House has set up five categories but in the end, there will only be two, “flattering news” and “offensive news.”
Moreover, this notice pertains to newspaper news only. Television and online news providers are excluded. The Blue House reasons that since television stations do not carry much news and online providers usually cover political news and columns rather than government policies, their news can be handled by the Blue House staff. Considering the 24-hour news stations, the hourly radio news and reviews and the two-way communication of the Internet media, this decision seems to be based on a biased perspective toward different media forms.
During the Chun Doo Hwan administration, the media were treated as obedient organs or potential troublemakers. It was an unfortunate period in the history of our media that led to the categorization of journalists and severely affected the critical function of media. President Roh Moo-hyun’s Blue House can surely not have forgotten that. It is unthinkable that the president would try to go back to those days. In good faith, the Blue House should retract this idea.
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