Thursday, December 26, 2013

Misuse of the Mass Media

The mass media in Korea, like the rest of the world, is subject to criticism for the way it transmits the news. In the Peace Weekly column on the Diagnosis of Current Events, the writer explores a serious problem in  journalism: the ideological battles that are given prominent exposure on front pages of newspapers and in opening remarks on news channels throughout the world. He considers this the primary reason for the divisions in society. Uplifting concepts like mutual respect and compromise, reconciliation, solidarity, trust, win-win outcomes, and peace are nowhere to be found. And when we look deeper, he says, beneath the maneuvering for advantages and power, we see an increase of ideology, not less, with a stubbornness of  will that refuses to give an inch. In such confrontations, the point at issue becomes clouded, the willingness to re-think positions disappears. News sources, often trying to get their readers to join their  ideological stance, are further alienating many of their readers. 

As these efforts continue pitting one side against the other: conservatives against  progressives, left against right,  pro-Japanese against anti-Japanese, pro-Communist against anti-Communists, the battle between the different ideologies tends to intensify, fostering divisions and conflict within society.

The first obligation of media, according to the writer, is to present the facts accurately, objectively and fairly, and only then present their opinions. When discussing the same issue or event the facts should be the same, says the writer, as he reminds us of the saying of Confucius that we should be strictly fair when we criticize. But what frequently happens in presenting the news is the lack of differentiating between opinion and facts. If, for instance, it's reported that "Mr. Kim said the chances are great that  (A) did it," it makes it seem this is the objective fact.

He then shows, with examples, how this is done in many news articles. Objective, accurate facts are not presented as such, but appear introduced by terms such as "often we was was foresees."  We are not told "who did the hearing...who said what...who sees and foresees." This is one way the news source makes it seem that the majority goes along with their understanding, thus confirming that they are a reliable news source.

The second obligation of media is not to abuse the use of anonymity of the news-gatherer. There are times this is required, but this is overly used by such reporting:as "a party concerned...a key person...a services, and the like. When these terms are routinely used to promote the editorial policy of the paper,  there is likely to be a distortion of the news, and at times the paper creates a public personality, whose aspirations are most often political, and who supports the ideological position of the paper.

He concludes the column with a quote from Pope Francis: 'We must not be blinded by greed for profit and power." He goes on to plead for all those who at this time of Christmas are fighting over issues of advantages and power, and hopes sincerely that they will find  peace.

What Is Meant By Success?

On the spiritual page of the Catholic Times, the priest columnist recalls being invited to a  play directed by a former classmate, and being filled with pride for his success. After the play there were two tables set up where  they all sat and began discussing the evening's event. At the table directly in front of the stage was sitting a good-looking young man who the columnist hadn't noticed as part of the cast. During the conversation, he learned that he was behind the stage, responsible for the lighting.

There were many seated at the tables that had worked behind the scenes, out of sight of the audience. The columnist blamed his own ignorance for not knowing what was happening behind the stage when the actors were on stage. He was surprised to see how many of them, working quietly and unknown to most of the audience, were responsible for producing what was seen on stage. 
During the discussion at the table  the man working on the lighting turned to the priest and said: "Father,  I am a farmer from nearby. I work during the day farming, but in  the evenings I come here to take care of the lighting for the performance."  The priest stood up  and gave him a bow. "I have a feeling of pride in hearing you say, so openly, that you are a farmer."

"What is it about a farmer that is so praiseworthy? asked the young man. "it was the way you made known that you were a farmer that impressed me," the priest replied.

The priest then went on to mention that at a nearby high school, close to where he lives, there was a placard with the message: "We are proud to have a special talk from one  of our alumni."  This talk, said the priest, would no doubt give the students  a dream that someday they will also be able to succeed in life as this alumnus had done. But we know it is not only what appears to the eyes of the onlooker that is  praiseworthy. Also praiseworthy are people who, like the young farmer, without fanfare and very quietly, do their work with pride.  If we consider only a person's credentials and position in society, and the honor that comes with the position, something is seriously missing in our value system, the priest said. Referring to the placard  at the alma mater  of the successful graduate, he wondered if this is not just reinforcing the feeling of many that honor is the goal for  success in life.

Unknowingly, we can be fostering, he believes, what we dislike without thought of the result of  our  words and actions  Whatever we do has all kinds of ramifications and, perhaps thankfully, we are not conscious of them most of the time. Because there is just so much that we can handle at any one time, it may be helpful to pray for the strength and courage to do something about our incorrect thinking, when we are ready for that change.

The columnist ends the column by noting that when we find satisfaction and joy in what we do, even if it does not bring us honor in the eyes of world, we are living a praiseworthy life.