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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 21)

2017/03/21 07:01

2 NYT gaffes

It is often taken to be laudable for media outlets to be accommodating to requests for corrections and clarifications because it is always possible that a reporter misconstrues an answer from a source or a situation or the source answers without fully understanding the question and context.

Recently two cases involving two separate articles in the New York Times raise questions about this bona fide attitude, giving newspapers and broadcasters a reason to be more selective about handling such calls and more careful in quote use.

The first case is about the paper's article based on an interview with Moon Jae-in, the leading presidential candidate from the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea. The article had originally reported that Moon accented the need for Korea to learn to say no to the U.S. When there emerged an indication that the remark confirmed Moon's anti-U.S. tendency and was about to touch off a controversy, the Moon side reportedly made public the transcripts of the interview, which was conducted in Korean. It is said that Moon didn't ask for a correction.

Then, the paper changed the text, which clarified that Moon's remark was contained in his recently published memoir, tagging a correction for misstating the context at the end of the article.

So far, there was little to criticize except for the confusing effect the brouhaha had on readers who might be left wondering whether Moon has adopted a pro-American stance or has tried to look friendly at the U.S. to calm his detractors ahead of the May 9 presidential election.

The second case was about the crassness with which subjects are dealt with in a quote.

In the article about the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Seoul, Bruce Klingner of the conservative U.S. Heritage Foundation, was quoted as saying, "Japan and South Korea are like skittish small dogs that need constant reassurance and are constantly nervous." Klingner's quote was used in the context of part of Tillerson's mission being to dispel the two countries' doubts about U.S. defense commitment.

If the canine comparison in question were used as part of the Orwellian tradition set up in his Animal Farm, it was a mistake. If it was an international approach by the team of reporter and editor, it surely offended the readers. Besides, what would that logic make the United States and the Trump administration? We would pass the chance to get counter-offensive.