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[Opinion] Exposés on the Web

Posted August. 20, 2004 22:53,   


Just as the emergence of refrigerators has changed the production of food and the pattern of consumption, the emergence of the Internet is changing the way news is produced and consumed. On the Web, anyone can be a reporter or a writer. Once a write-up goes online, the entire world can read it. Those who have been consumers of news are now becoming the producers. On countless Web sites, Netizens are writing what they want to write.

Their desire to be the first one to bring news is so strong. The quality and accuracy of reporting are second banana for them. Those who have been lightly trained as journalists are busy punching the keyboard before verifying information or confirming the sources. Nobody is held responsible for their news reports. The line between opinion and fact is blurred. Their criteria for accuracy and objectivity are ambiguous. There is no gatekeeper who would correct mistakes in reports. They double as a reporter, an editor, a columnist, and a publisher.

The campaign to bring yet-untold historical truths appears to be driven by the Internet. Imagine that anyone who has been closely watching an individual or a family can have his or her own outlet to release write-ups? Isn’t it terrible? The revelations of former Uri Party Chairman Shin Ki-nam’s father as a pro-Japanese collaborator is traced back to a Netizen’s revealing write-up. A monthly magazine, “Shindonga,” after researching his allegations, ran an exposé about his history as a Japanese MP sergeant. After the exposé, unsubstantiated rumors about the fathers of presidential hopefuls and multi-term serving lawmakers have begun to spread unfettered over the Web. There is no way to find out whether they are true or false.

Since it has such an influence on our lives, the Internet will continue to grow bigger. Although a shadow follows a light in the world of the Internet press, we should learn to bear with it because it represents a historical trend. Nevertheless, there should several guidelines for online writing. First, they should write to inform the world, not to change the world. Second, they should be prudent since their write-up online will have permanency like a diamond. And finally, they should write candidly and correctly.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial writer hthwang@donga.com