The world ‘Herald’ means ‘reporting’ and ‘informing’. In Korea, mass media, like newspaper and television, is playing the role of ‘reporting’ and ‘informing’. For newspaper and television, news agencies play a major role in reporting and informing about what is happening now. Chung-Ang Herald had an honorable opportunity to meet the editor-in-chief Hwang Seok-sun of Newsis, the top news agency in Korea.
CAH: Newsis is one of the two major news agencies with Yonhap news. What is the difference between newspaper and news agency? Also could you introduce Newsis a little bit?< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >
Hwang: News agency is the agency that covers politics, economics, society, culture, etc. When something happens, a news agency would immediately go out to cover the case. Also a news agency plays a role to provide content, articles, photos, and even videos to the mass media like newspapers and television. Newsis is a private news agency, so not only do we cover the story of people’s lives, but also we can criticize wrongdoing of the government while standing on the citizens’ side. Because we are private, we can pursue the function of media, which is surveillance and checking.
CAH: What is Newsis’ directing point?
Hwang: Newsis stands for sympathy. Sympathy means that we are not just providing. There should communications between reporters and readers. Also sympathy mans that our reporters will cover things that the other media’s reporters will not. We pay attention to the people and places that are neglected in society.
CAH: You are the editor-in-chief of Newsis. What is it like to live as an editor-in-chief?
Hwang: My day is literally twenty-four hours. I have two meetings every morning and evening with the head of each department – politics, economics, and society, etc. During the meeting in the morning, the head of the departments gather and report the news and we discuss which report should be written and not. Also, we share information regardless of the department. After that, I present the news that was discussed during the meeting and give comments about the news that was reported the previous day. Quite often, I get to meet with someone in the news, a minister, or a CEO. Every day, I have to check the news that is uploaded regardless of the departments. (CAH: How do you decide the day’s top news?) That is decided on the morning meeting. However, since we are internet-based, top news can be changed anytime. Also, during sometime in the year, there are important events such as our current election, which everyone is talking about. So for times like this, I instruct reporters to write commentaries about the important event.
CAH: In 2010, you published ‘Journalist Hwang Seok-sun’s Reading the World, Let’s Pull the Telephone Pole’, which is derived from your column collection. What would you recommend to read, and why?
Hwang: This is the collection of my columns that I wrote when I was working for Munhwa Ilbo. I can’t really recommend what to read, but I can say that the section ‘Change the Local Government’ is the one I am most proud of. These columns about local government actually affected the society and had an impact on the system. Because I was interested in local government, I wrote many columns about it, and I was really proud to see even small changes in society. Since I wrote most columns about local government, I was invited to some forums concerning local government.
CAH: Mostly you work in the social department, and by looking through your blog, it is clear that you have a huge interest in social issues and problems. So these days, what are you most interested in? Could you comment on that?
Hwang: Yes, I am very interested in social issues. These days, I’m interested in the issue of illegal investigation. We are living in democratic society. Any democratic world or OECD countries should not do illegal investigation no matter what. However, a country without investigation does not make sense as well. The government should know what the people like me (editor-in-chief) are doing. However, there is a border. They cannot investigate one’s private life.
CAH: When did you want to become a reporter? What do you think is the charm of being a reporter?
Hwang: Since middle school, I wanted to become a reporter. I thought I should graduate from a school of mass communication. So I was attending another school’s Business Administration program, but I decided to retake the test and came to Chung-ang University’s School of Mass Communication to pursue my dream. The charm of being a reporter would be changing society with one sentence on the paper. Being a reporter is harder than it looks, but I’m really proud of being a reporter because I can change the world. I can help and I have helped needy people with one article. That would be the charm of being a reporter. (CAH: What virtue do you think a reporter should have?) I think morality, balance, sense of duty as a reporter, and service mindedness.
CAH: What is the similarity and difference between a television or radio reporter and a news reporter? Do you have any particular reasons for choosing to be a news reporter?
Hwang: I guess the similarity would be we both cover the case and report to the world what is going on in our society. The difference is on the background image and video they use. For a television reporter especially, the background image and video is so important. Even if the contents of the news are great, without good video or image it can’t be a great report. However, a news reporter can write a great article with only a pen in his/her hand. The reason why I chose to be to be a television reporter is because I didn’t think I would be good at it. I wasn’t a good speaker, so I never dreamed of becoming a television reporter. I never took television reporting, or even a PD exam. Because I thought I did not have what it takes to be a television reporter, I only learned about newspapers in The School of Mass Communication.
CAH: As a reporter, it is always important to be object in any circumstance. What do you need to be objective when writing an article?
Hwang: You need a balanced point of view, knowledge on the department you are working on, intuition, and judgment. What I mean by intuition is that you need to be certain of what you write. It is a similar in meaning to judgment. You need to work hard. (CAH: Since Newsis is a news agency, which reports news immediately, it would be hard to write an article objectively.) Yes, there are many articles that are released without desk checking. So, it is really important for the reporters to be objective when writing an article.
CAH: When you hire new reporters, what do you look for in them?
Hwang: When I was working for Munhwa Ilbo, I was in The Department of Human Resources. When I hire someone, the most important thing is aptitude to become a reporter. Also, ability to write what they think, foreign language skills, common knowledge, and physical strength are the things that I consider. However, the most important thing is aptitude. (CAH: What do you mean by aptitude?) Whenever the new reporters come to the office, I see some of them who are not meant to be a reporter. As you know, reporter is a very stressful job. There are no certain elements for aptitude to become a reporter. You need to be able to enjoy the work of reporting. That is what I mean by aptitude. The reason why there are many reporters who graduated from The School of Mass Communication is that they wanted to become a reporter since they were young, and they are willing to enjoy the stressful and hard life of being a reporter. I have been in this business for twenty-five years and I do not regret any second of it. I think the sense of duty is really important.
CAH: Lastly, could you give a message to CAU students who wish to work in a news business?
Hwang: As I said earlier, one sentence in an article changes the world. The world famous scandal ‘Watergate’ also started from a sentence and it changed American society. As I read my columns and see Korea changed, I am really proud of myself. Also to become a reporter you need to work really hard. Work hard and be passionate!