[VIEWPOINT]Above all, balanced reporting

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[VIEWPOINT]Above all, balanced reporting

Scholars of the newspaper history of the United States do not hesitate to say that the 20th century was the age of the New York Times. The New York Times was once simply a local newspaper targeted at residents of New York, yet it has come to hold authority and influence over people not only in the United States but all over the world. Therefore, everybody is made to think that descriptions like “high quality newspaper,” “intellectual newspaper” or “authoritative newspaper” were made for the New York Times.
The newspaper can thank two great strategies for such a reputation. The first strategy is that they chose a politically neutral intellectual class as their target readers. The United States was once deeply into politically biased journalism. Newspapers were nothing more than organs of political parties. Under such circumstances, great leaders of newspaper companies like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst published newspapers intended to incite the masses. But it was hard to grab the attention of the neutral intellectual group with a low quality newspaper. The New York Times targeted the people the big newspapers ignored, and were remarkably successful within a short period of time.
The editing strategy of targeting people with high intellects is a factor that limits the number of copies published. Obviously the number of readers would increase if the level of the newspaper fell. But this newspaper did not sacrifice the standard of information to increase its readership. They knew that good media needs good quality, not good numbers.
The other strategy that made the New York Times rise high as an authoritative newspaper was its loyalty to the truth. The paper has steadfastly observed the editing policy of reporting facts in an objective, fair and balanced manner. Thanks to a stern editorial policy, the New York Times has lost exclusive stories many times, but its loyalty to the truth came back with great compensation later, compensation that can’t be compared with the value of an occasional scoop. The paper earned the solid trust of its readers, and this trust is indeed a strong asset for the New York Times.
What kind of a newspaper is a good newspaper? The New York Times has the answer. A newspaper that is politically independent and aims for the readership of intellectuals is a good newspaper. A newspaper that provides information true to the facts, even though that means losing one or two exclusive stories, is a good newspaper. It may seem as though there are two factors that make a good newspaper, but they are in fact one. If one is neglected, the other is automatically lost with it. If a newspaper strongly concentrates on holding onto politically biased readers, that newspaper cannot ensure the modern rules of journalism which are objectivity, balance and fairness. The same goes for broadcasting and the Internet media.
But the group that needs to take the most interest in the two success strategies of the New York Times is politicians. Regardless of whether they belong to the government or the opposition parties, politicians who only concentrate on pleasing the appetites of those with similar political preferences earn the people’s disdain. People have long been feeling sick and tired of low-class politics that is busy trying to damage others and putting the blame on opponents, instead of presenting reasonable solutions based on facts on which everyone will agree. It is a shame that everyone is so desperately trying to please their regular customers when the neutral, informed public is waiting to elect the next president.

* The writer is a professor of mass communications at Korea University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Min-hwan
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