Tuesday, December 11, 2007

[The Hankyoreh, November 26 2007] [Column] Monitoring the truth in the information age

While closely watching the leakage of test questions at Gimpo Foreign Language High School as the parent of a middle school third-grader, I thought about how it would have been if the incident had happened in the 1990s, when I was a local news reporter. At that time, I went around private institutions gathering information or gathering information if I was lucky.

The incident was revealed by two students who failed to pass Gimpo Foreign Language High School’s entrance exam. If this had happened in the 1990s, the two students would have remained unidentified informants and honor would have been restored to the reporter who was given the information. Back then, reporters could get exclusive stories only if they received telephone tips from readers, and readers did not have the opportunity to disclose the truth without using the media.

Now, readers have the means to inquire, collect and disseminate information on their own. In connection with the leakage of exam questions at the high school, two students made an Internet cafe, a task which takes less than 10 minutes to accomplish. The cafe was widely known to people as netizens logged into the site which, as an increasing number of people gave evidence in the case, became a central point for those who wanted to clarify the truth. Netizens simultaneously began to spread information. Up to two weeks before the school acknowledged the incident and police announced the results of its investigation, the Internet cafe worked as a more important point of reference than any of the traditional media outlets.


The cafe was filled with requests for interviews posted by the print and broadcast media. The two informants, who in the past would have remained unnamed and gone without credit, are now in a position to chose which media outlets they want to talk to. This in some situations means that the control of information has shifted to media users. These users now have the ability to organize information by themselves. However one must not forget that this is true only when the information is based on the truth.

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