Rooting out yellow journalism

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Rooting out yellow journalism

In the world of journalism, credibility is king. Without it, the very foundation of the profession will crumble to the ground.

A big portion of credibility is tied to ethics and decency, which have been seriously undermined as of late by bogus and sensationalistic online media outlets that are giving journalism a bad name. A survey conducted by the Federation of Korean Industries, involving 426 of its corporate members, found that many firms have suffered damages from reports published by Internet media sites. Of those that have suffered setbacks, roughly half said the reports contained false, misleading or skewed information.

These online media outlets often post scandalous or even fictional articles and updates in an attempt to bring down companies that refuse to provide financial support or don’t advertise on the sites. And they’re getting bolder seemingly every day. Companies often wind up giving in to their demands, fearing more vicious attacks and additional damage to their corporate image.

With its limitless boundaries, the Internet has broadened the scope and reach of the media, paving the way for investigation and reporting without the capital and manpower requirements needed to start traditional print publications, radio stations and TV networks.

According to the law, a media establishment can officially form and register with the government with a staff of just three reporters and editors. As of last year, 1,698 Internet media sites were registered with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The problem is that some of them neglect the basic tenets of journalism, such as fact-checking and verifying information before publication. They copy, paste and then weave together facts with fiction for their benefit. It’s difficult for companies and individuals to sidestep their attacks. When these articles are posted online, they spread like a wildfire across the Internet. As a result, companies that value their brands and corporate images are especially vulnerable.

Of course, many of these sites report the news with integrity. But in this case a few bad apples have tainted the whole crop, discrediting the entire online segment of the industry. This ultimately harms the public the most. Strictly speaking, these quasi-journalism institutions are poisonous and they must be rooted out before the damage spreads. The authorities must toughen the guidelines on Internet media registration and come up with strong punishments for abuse.

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