I just read Gusts of Popular Feeling's post about this poorly-written article on NoCutNews web site, and is my wont, I called the newspaper and asked questions about the story. I called 02-2650-1100 (which is listed as the 대표전화 (official line) at the bottom of their web site, and was presented with an automated list of options. I hit the first one (1), which was for the editorial department. A man promptly answered, and I informed him that I was inquiring about the "'짝퉁' 원어민 강사 몰려온다" story. I don't yell and scream, and questions were clear and professional. I, as a reader, had two points: to inquire about the story, and to also complain that I believed their reporting on foreigners to be irresponsible.
Everything started off fine, and when the guy pulled up the story, I complained that it had a lack of clear statistic or even a named source to at all bolster the claim that there was a wave of fake native speakers descending on Daejeon, and that there were other inaccuracies in the article.
His response? After cutting me off as I was describing my problems with the article, he simply pointed out that it wasn't a NoCut News reporter, and was an article from another paper. When I reminded him that it was published on their SITE (I know the difference between an article in the Naver news feed and a direct link to a newspaper's article), he brushed it off and said that I was mistaken and the newspaper had "no responsibility" for what people from the outside or in other places wrote.
I was a little taken aback, and as is my habit when I hear something surprising in Korean, I repeated back what I had heard: "무책임이라고요?" (You assume NO responsibility?) He responded that they didn't. I pressed on, since that doesn't make sense and seems like a copout (not to mention an implicit acknowledgement of how bad the story was, since he immediately washed his hands of it after he pulled it up), I asked if the editorial department doesn't at all vet (확인) what goes out on their site, under their name. He said it was "impossible to check/control" ("확인 할 수 없습니다") what goes out with stories coming in from outside writers.
That answer's not much better, since it either sounds like NoCut News either has horrible editorial oversight and needs to fix their system, or he's feeding me a line of crap. If you're publishing something as an ARTICLE that professes to be news, and not a reporter's blog, isn't it the editorial department's responsibility?
At which point, the guy on the phone, seeming to be weary of my questions, which I felt were both legitimate and made to the proper listed authority on their site, started raising his voice. I pointed out that this wasn't the only article, actually, and that the bigger issue was that of negative reporting on foreigners in their paper, and that there was a clear pattern of generally negative stories done on foreigners, and I pointed out that one could even such a pattern "racist."
At that point, he lost it. He was yelling, saying that I can't say such a thing. I said -- and it was at this point that I actually asked him, very calmly, why he was yelling ("왜 큰 목소리로 말씀하시는 거에요?) and he responded that it made him feel bad (기분 나쁘게 하지 말고...) and such. I was actually pretty surprised, and I pointed out that I was criticizing his newspaper, not him, and was clearly not yelling, and he should be more professional. I reminded him again that I was making an official call, to the listed number, and rhetorically asked whether was I making some mistake? Was I doing something wrong? (이렇게 알아보면 제가 무슨 잘 못 하고 있나요? 제가 무슨 나쁜 짓을 하고 있나요?)
I then pointedly asked him to whom I was speaking, at which point he started saying his name, to the effect of Hong something-something, but he changed his mind mid-sentence and asked me for MY name, at which point I promptly told him "마-이-클 허-트" and gave this web address, and even started spelling M-E-T-R...
He cut me off, saying that whatever -- you can't say this about our newspaper, and that I obviously "don't know anything about Korea" since I was inquiring about this article the newspaper had "no responsibility" for, and then he just started talking by himself, and I couldn't get a word in edgewise (which is no mean feat!) as he had clearly blown a gasket.
I got in a few fragments, such as "Why are you behaving this way, this is an official inquiry" (공식적으로 알아보는 건데 본인이 신문의 대표아니냐...) at which point he responded to the tune that he didn't know who I was (I tried to tell him again and was quickly dismissed) and I was just "some reader" or someone (at which point I said something to the effect of, "That's right. I'm a reader. Can't a reader make this phone call to an editor?") but he was literally not allowing me to speak anymore and was clearly raising his voice enough that I'm sure anyone within earshot on his end would be wondering what the ruckus was all about.
At the end, he was like, "I don't have time for this, I'm working" and I pointed out that -- and I stopped him at this point -- "Isn't this your work? I'm making an official inquiry about your newspaper. Related to the newspaper. Are you supposed to behave this way?" I pointed out that even a high school newspaper wouldn't act this way, which may have been a bit mean, but he was already waaaaay over the line. But I still wasn't yelling, and I reminded him again that "I called the number listed on the site, I was asking questions and making points about an article IN THEIR NEWSPAPER. And doesn't anyone have the right to make such a call?"
At which point he paused, then said "I'm working now and hanging up." Then he hung up the phone.
Very professional, Mr. Hong. You represented your newspaper in just the way that seems to be befitting of NoCut News reputation. Even if you don't have some direct responsibility for the article, or the newspaper doesn't, blowing your top to a calm person making inquiries about how these articles are written on your official line isn't cool.
But this isn't the first time. The last time I called a newspaper, and this was a major player (I can't remember clearly which one it was, so I won't drop their name here), when I simply told the secretary what it was regarding after she asked, and I told her that I wanted to speak with such and such reporter about an article, she transferred me, but then I was dropped. When I called back, she recognized my voice and literally hung up. I called back once more, thinking it was a mistake. "Hello, I think I was..." I was clearly hung up on again, with telephone receiver jostling against the phone base and all before the line cut out.
When I made the call today to NoCut News, my tone was frank and direct, but my questions and criticism were fair and related to the newspaper. Even after Mr. Hong started raising his voice, and I pointed out that I wasn't making any personal attacks or insults to him, he still refused to give his name after I asked for it again (when asked why, I said that I wanted to be accurate and specific as to whom I was talking to and be clear about where I had gotten this information from, and wasn't he speaking as the newspaper's representative, which he acknowledged, but seemed to piss him off more), but yet he continued talking about how the newspaper "doesn't have any responsibility," I can't say certain things about it, that my negative assessment was "just my opinion" and didn't matter, etc. After such statements, I was still reminding him that he was speaking officially, and I repeated back things he said to be certain.
But he wasn't concerned with the content anymore, but now was just plain making personal attacks, to the effect that I wasn't an official anybody, that I didn't know what I was talking about, I didn't know anything about Korea, and that I wasn't allowed to say such things about the newspaper.
Well, sir, I am. You work for a newspaper. You're not a private individual. You have the obligation to deal with an official inquiry PROFESSIONALLY, without raising your voice or taking it personally. Even if I HAD been rude, you still have the obligation to behave like a PROFESSIONAL, which you did not.
If this is the level of professionalism in Korean journalism, no wonder its overall quality is so low!
And don't blame being a young country, or not being as big as international newspapers. There are a lot of bigger, structural reasons why the quality of Korean journalism leaves much to be desired, but it doesn't require 200+ years of an open journalistic tradition, the protection of free speech laws, or having the great resources of The New York Times or the BBC.
It doesn't require anything like that to simply behave like a working professional when you receive a phone call to your WORK desk, regarding WORK, at 11AM in the morning, when you're WORKING.
It's not like I'm some crazy netizen who somehow got his personal cellphone number and called him during dinnertime, yelling like a madman.
Mr. Hong, show some respect for your individual readers and your overall readership (even if you personally disagree with them), as well as for YOURSELF as a professional.