[EDITORIALS]The source of faulty reportingBetween President Roh’s inauguration and the end of last year, his administration made a total of 349 requests for arbitration to the Press Arbitration Commission. This is an enormous increase from the 26 requests made during the same period of time by the Kim Dae-jung administration, which pioneered the arbitration system.
Under any circumstance, the press should report accurately and maintain objectivity and fairness. The process of confirming facts to avoid incorrect reporting, and of giving interested parties a chance to bring forth counter-arguments, is part of the basic duty of a reporter. Responsibility for accurate and objective reporting lies with the press. Despite reporters’ painstaking efforts, however, it will not be possible for the Korean press to enter an era without arbitration unless the government changes its inadequate system for briefing reporters.
The Roh administration introduced its briefing system under the pretext of meeting global standards. But two years later, the system remains at the level of an underderveloped country’s. The administration promised weekly briefings by ministers or vice ministers, and by bureau chiefs or assistant ministers at any time, in order to satisfy the people’s right to know. But last year, the number of briefings by ministers or vice ministers averaged just 0.4 per week; from assistant ministers and bureau chiefs, the average was 1.4 per week. Policy background sessions were rarities, as were explanations of how related ministries coordinated their views. On sensitive issues, the response was usually “not yet decided” or “we don’t know.” Under this in-name-only briefing system, it would be illogical not to expect the mass production of incorrect reports.
It is not the government but the people who are damaged by incorrect reporting, because the people are the consumers of the policies the government establishes and executes. It is not possible to fully erase the effect of an inaccurate report. It is human nature to give the most weight to the first report one hears. Instead of quarreling about flawed reports that have already been made, it is more important for the government to make the original source of information more useful and efficient.
The government must put all its effort into implementing a proper briefing system from now on. If it is not confident in its ability to give useful briefings, then it should make government offices accessible to the press.
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