[FOUNTAIN]False reports always bad?In a recent roundtable talk of the Blue House correspondents from The Weekly Journalist Association of Korea, the following comments were made: “I visited the Blue House with civic organization activists. When I showed them my reporter’s identification card, I was not allowed to enter. But the activists went in easily. The secretary’s building of Cheongwadae is a place where citizens are permitted inside but journalists are not.”
Reporters accredited to the Blue House call the Chunchugwan, the press center, Chunchu-temple. Reporters can’t go freely around and there aren’t many welcoming places. The nickname of the press center in the Gwacheon Government Building is the henhouse. The economic ministries and officials feed them three to four times a day. The reporters have long waits for briefings.
False reports can cause tragic accidents. In 1931, a three-column report about an incident in Wanbaoshan, Manchuria was published in a Korean newspaper. The story said that Korean farmers were beaten by Chinese farmers due to a conflict about waterways. Actually, it was the Korean farmers’ fault, as they were making waterways in the Chinese farmers’ field without permission. However, the false report caused Chinese people living in Korea to be attacked, and 127 Chinese residents in Pyongyang and Incheon were killed.
News reports are made by people. It is hard to completely prevent false reports. According to the Press Arbitration Commission, filing for arbitration increased greatly from 55 cases in 1988 to 883 cases in 2005. Ever since the government included the witch hunting false reports in work evaluation, the number is increasing. When public servants see a news report they do not like, the first thing they do is to write back. They are desperate when they find a pretext against the editorials or columns. The president himself even filed a suit against caricatures. This is causing trouble for reporters.
Journalistic principles teach us that the worst false report is silence. I fear that someday this would actually happen in the world.
Are false reports always bad? This is from Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln written by James C. Humes. In the late 19th century, a Swedish businessman finished his breakfast and opened the morning paper.
The paper reported his death. It was an obvious false report. He realized they confused him with his brother, who was found mysteriously dead. Weapon Dealer, Merchant of Death, was the headline. He was furious. He went straight to his lawyer and changed his will. The Nobel Foundation came about that way.
by Lee Chul-ho
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.