The next step for the media establishment

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The next step for the media establishment


Being a journalist and speaking of the newspaper crisis is as futile and shameless as a politician talking about the crisis in politics. If you investigate the cause of the crisis, internal factors, such as failing to fulfill one’s responsibilities, are often as crucial as external ones. It is my belief that if newspapers had earned readers’ trust with unbiased and accurate reporting, the newspapers would not be in danger of failing - no matter how much the media environment has changed.

I’d like to make a confession. When I learned of the shocking announcement that an aide of a ruling Grand National Party representative was allegedly involved in the cyberattack on the National Election Commission Web site, the first thing that came to mind was the online talk show “Naneun Ggomsuda” (“I’m a Petty-Minded Creep.”) The NEC site went down on the morning of Oct. 26, the day of the mayoral by-election. But the media did not investigate the incident. All that some outlets did was hint at the possibility of North Korean involvement.

The show, however, was the only one to raise the possibility of an intentional scheme to affect voter turnout, and police ultimately revealed that the theory was at least partially true. This was the same show that had also questioned Lee Myung-bak’s retirement home in Naegok-dong, southern Seoul. With the reporting done by the show, it’s no wonder that people ignore newspapers.

Dominique Wolton, a French communications expert, once said that now that anyone can become a citizen journalist thanks to the Internet, traditional journalists have two choices. A newspaper reporter can either become a useless relic of the old days or a gatekeeper of information by employing as much objectivity and honesty as possible while keeping a distance from the powers that be.

Raymond Aron, a 20th-century French philosopher, said that the biggest enemy of freedom of the press was readers. He paradoxically warned of the hazard of journalists trying to flatter the public. That risk is growing in the era of citizen journalism. Wolton said that anyone could write a report but that not everyone could be a reporter because the established media has legitimacy, and legitimacy comes from trust. When times are hard, newspapers must go back to the basics and earn readers’ trust. We reporters need to wake up. We can’t just sit back and let the podcast score one scoop after another. At this rate, we will lose our jobs in no time.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Bae Myung-bok
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