Setting the Record Straight
By Oh Young-jin
The Korea Times has recently learned about some "misunderstandings" regarding our coverage of foreigners in general and native English teachers in particular.
Rather than name names or nitpick over the contents of articles that apparently serve as the basis for that misunderstanding, we would like to share with our readers some principles this newspaper operates by.
Above all, we believe that a newspaper is a marketplace. In other words, it should try to give equal treatment to all parties. We emphasize the word, "try," because the objectivity in news coverage can be a matter of subjectivity from the perspective of the parties directly involved in a given issue and, after all, journalists are only human.
By an extension of this metaphor, the role of newspapers may be harsh to some and kind to others. It is just like a real market, where good products sell well and bad products are kicked to the curb. We do our best to give credit when and where it's due.
More to the point, if foreign residents do good deeds, The Korea Times has done its part reporting them and helping them set an example for others - not just for our foreign readers but also for our domestic ones. Likewise, if they are engaged in wrongdoings, we don't neglect reporting them.
We believe that allegations that our newspaper is being unfair in its coverage of cases involving foreigners are less than just. Besides, this newspaper takes pride in serving its foreign residents and visitors as an important segment of its readership, making these allegations even more untenable.
Since some of the misunderstandings stem from inconsistencies in data, we want to make our rule clear that extra effort is made to crosscheck figures and facts with more than two sources in dealing with sensitive stories. But there are inadvertent and occasional exceptions: when these important pieces of information come from reliable sources, and we believe they don't have any hidden agenda or axes to grind.
When a case is made by the parties involved that raises a reasonable doubt about these fact sheets, we go back to the sources and double-check their stories. We have an additional built-in vetting system with our foreign staff playing the role of addressing foreigners' sensitivities in our coverage.
Importantly, The Korea Times keeps its doors open to any suggestion, believing that the newspaper business is a two-way street; our role is not just the provider of news but the recipient of reactions. But this also makes it part of our mission to vet those reactions with the same intensity as used to check the data in our news articles, before any decision is made on corrections and clarifications.
Lastly, we think that some of the misunderstanding is caused by a sense of isolation felt by foreign readers living far from home and adapting to a new set of surroundings. This is not out of the ordinary but it sometimes intensifies people's predilections to take things out of proportion or to be extra sensitive to trivial matters.
For example, some foreigners see our coverage on foreigners' crimes being unfair because they opine that we turn a blind eye to domestic crimes. But just a glance at our Nationline briefs dispels this myth. The majority concern natives committing illegal acts.
After all, foreign residents are part of Korea, with their number already sizable and rising. This reason, not just for our newspaper, but for Korea as a whole to accept them as part of our extended family is all the more compelling.