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[Opinion] Pulitzer Prize

Posted April. 06, 2004 22:14,   


Those who give hints to a chess player normally do not hear compliments, instead they are more likely to hear complaints if they do not give the right advice. Joseph Pulitzer, the famous American “newspaper king,” became a journalist thanks to his appropriate advice in a chess game. One day, the Hungarian immigrant, who once was a mercenary soldier but became a ragman after a while, went to a library in St. Louis to read books and improve his English. At the library, he gave some bright hints to chess players out of a type of spirit of journalism. The players were surprised at his insightful comments. They were editors at a German language newspaper, Westliche Post, and offered him a job.

Pulitzer believed that journalism should serve as a watchdog. He said a journalist is the "lookout on the bridge of the ship of state," and a newspaper is an ethics teacher who teaches how to tell right from wrong. Pulitzer strongly believed that the mission of journalism as a watchdog is to reveal corruption and irregularities which involve power and money. In fact, it is also Joseph Pulitzer who showed the contradiction of journalism between moral judgment and the pursuit of a sensation as yellow journalism. Still, his errors can be forgiven when considering the fact that he was faithful to the media’s role in the society.

Winners in this year’s Pulitzer Prize, which was founded by Joseph Pulitzer, were unveiled. Correspondent Anthony Shadid of The Washington Post was awarded International Reporting for covering ordinary people’s lives in Iraq after the U.S. occupation. Michael Sallah of The Blade in Toledo, Ohio won for investigative reporting for covering the suspicion over a massacre of the Vietnamese people by the U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War. He said that although the government has tried to hide something for 30 years, he and his colleagues were there to disclose it. This tells much to Korean journalism.

Today is the 48th Day of Information and Communication. Since the inauguration of the current government, newspapers have been divided depending on each of their relationship with the government. At yesterday’s congratulatory gathering, some pointed out that what is important is not the relationship with the government, but the relationship with the readers. Like Pulitzer said, the media can no longer be considered as the media if it discontinues its role as the watchdog over the government. Now is the time for the newspaper industry to ponder upon its mission to report not the obvious facts but the truth that the rich and the powerful want to hide.

Editorial Writer Kim Soon-duk yuri@donga.com