In the previous issue, the CBT reported a discussion of the merger between the two universities raising with Glocal University 30 projects. Just before the publication’s release, we got some advice from Director Gu Bon-sang. Director Gu expressed a desire to show the “direction” in the article rather than maintaining “neutrality” and hoped that readers would form their thoughts through the article representing a “specific” direction. He even proposed detailed “advice” such as inserting the results of the faculty meeting supporting the Glocal University 30 projects in the article. Director Gu’s advice sparked latent questions I’ve been pondering during my three years as a journalist, such as fairness, neutrality, and journalistic framing.
Fairness is considered the ethical standard of reporting in traditional journalism. The BBC in the UK upholds the concept of as a core principle of journalism, defining fairness as the pursuit of “the things the UK wants to achieve” rather than a numerical balance. This creates a flexible and relative notion that reflects history and social structures. Moreover, when addressing contentious issues, diversity in viewpoints and perspectives within a certain range must be provided to ensure fairness.
In contrast to fairness, neutrality is a concept that is more prone to error these days. The understanding of neutrality as being fair and impartial without bias is often misinterpreted as a numerical balance that leans neither way. However, in an imbalanced playing field due to the logic of power, there is a concern that media neutrality simply remains to preserve conservative ideologies. Particularly in situations where moral issues are at stake, presenting both sides of an issue under the pretense of neutrality can be harmful. This is because the idea of neutrality can be used to justify false equivalency, even when one side is obviously wrong or harmful. This myth of neutrality serves as a cover that legitimizes unjust power, perpetuating the status quo. In this context, Director Gu’s advice on neutrality is significant.
Fundamentally, the media’s role is to reveal and disseminate facts through their platform and, further, to serve as a watchdog of power. However, Director Gu’s “advice” that articles should have direction raises questions about whether facts can have a direction. Moreover, making readers hold specific opinions through articles with a direction poses a problem, as it threatens the fairness of the media and exposes the limitations of neutrality, which can legitimize unjust power. Taking this into consideration, Director Gu’s “advice” offers an important insight into the media framing (how the same situation is presented affects perception, decision-making, and outcomes).
Journalistic news framing is problematic because it influences how news is interpreted by the audience and can shape public opinion. The media holds significant sway in society, playing a crucial role in conveying information and opinions. While media self-purification is of paramount importance, it also requires active participation from individual consumers to critically evaluate various societal situations and issues from an objective standpoint. Because simply accepting the facts presented by the media without scrutiny may lead the public to become trapped in the frames set by the media. Even when you read our newspaper, the critical thinking is demanded.
Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to Director Gu for providing an opportunity to delve deeper into the dilemmas I’ve faced during my three years as a journalist. At the same time, I hope Director Gu, who has been a year in the role as leader of the newspaper, will continue to offer progressive opinions on articles and guide CBT successfully in the future.