‘PD Notebook’ redux emerges triumphantAnd so “PD Notebook” is the eventual winner in the Hwang Woo-suk fracas. Starting with its November 22 program last year that first raised suspicions about the then-deified scientist, “PD Notebook” has broken the story of a scandal that has swept the world.
As I write this on Tuesday morning, the news media are busy covering the Seoul National University panel’s final announcement on the probe into the star-cum-swindler stem cell scientist. You must have heard and read enough by now about the Dr. Hwang scandal, that there were simply no patient-specific stem cells. No additional references will be made here to scientific lingo such as teratoma, parthenogenesis, somatic cell division and god-knows-what.
Instead, let me go back to “PD Notebook,” whose producers must be smiling inside, enjoying their triumph. Initially they faced murder threats from a wrathful public, especially after it was revealed they violated journalistic ethics by lying about a prosecution investigation of Dr. Hwang. However, fast forward a couple of months and that fabrication has now become fact. “PD Notebook,” which had been suspended amid the furor raised last month, resumed broadcasting last week in its regular time slot, Tuesday at 11 p.m. For weeks, random documentaries had filled the slot, but now the boys are back flying their colors. And their way of savoring their victory is to keep their nose to the ground and harry their prey ― Dr. Hwang. This week’s program dealt with Dr. Hwang’s cloned cow, following last week’s “The Truth of the Hwang Woo-suk Myth.” A series of interview clips with dramatic music in the background ensued.
The chief producer, Choi Seung-ho, appeared on the show last week to address the ethics issue and bring up more suspicions regarding Dr. Hwang. While apologizing for his violation of journalistic ethics, Mr. Choi explained what happened at length. “[After a ‘deep throat’ report] we became more confident that Dr. Hwang fabricated his thesis. We were actually too confident in what we knew, but could not say, in order to draw the testimony,” said Mr. Choi.
“PD Notebook” truly deserves to be commended for relentlessly digging into this issue. But I couldn’t help wondering whether I will ever be able to forget that the producers lied. Don’t get me wrong ― I’m not a diehard Hwang supporter. I felt more scared than anything to see overly patriotic ladies lined up in front of his lab, sprinkling flower petals on the path of their then-idol, after vowing to donate their eggs.
Rather, I feel that “PD Notebook” is also more of a loser than a winner, especially as I’ve been quite an avid viewer of the investigative program, even buying the book “PD Notebook, the Treasure House of Korea’s PD Journalism.” Launched in 1990, the investigative news show has indeed been the first voice to address many sensitive issues such as human rights and democracy activists. Setting aside their dyed-in-the-wool liberal stance, “PD Notebook” has earned its reputation as a pillar of what’s dubbed “PD journalism.” Investigative news programs searching for the “truth behind the facts” have been both the objects of praise and the targets of criticism. The recent “PD Notebook” furor may be one good example. However, watching the chief producer Choi making his lame excuse mixed with self-praise last week, I felt that now is the time to sell my book to a second-hand bookshop, and bid farewell to the 16 years of “PD Notebook,” which is victorious yet tarnished in the Hwang scandal.
by Chun Su-jin