Editorial Notes

New rules will promote healthy online media: The Korea Herald

A woman looks at a website displayed on an Apple Inc. iMac computer in this arranged photograph taken in Incheon, South Korea.
A woman looks at a website displayed on an Apple Inc. iMac computer in this arranged photograph taken in Incheon, South Korea.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

In its editorial on Nov 20, 2015, The Korea Herald says the new regulations were necessary and will help weed out unqualified outlets

The government has taken a small, but meaningful step to rein in substandard Internet media, which have been blamed for turning Korean cyberspace into a hotbed for sensationalism, defamation and rumors in the name of journalism. 

Under the revision of the enforcement ordinance of the Newspaper Act, online news outlets seeking government registration must employ at least five editorial staff, compared with three previously. 

The new rules, which took effect Thursday (Nov 19), also oblige online outlets to provide documents on the pension and insurance payments for their employees. 

In the past, they only had to offer the names of employees. Currently registered outlets will be given one year to meet the new regulations.  

The government revised the rules as part of its efforts to weed out unqualified, unethical news outlets from the Internet, and more broadly to provide a healthier environment for the media industry as a whole. 

This paper being a part of the Korean media industry, it is not pleasant to say that the news sector is crowded by corrupt media disguised as newspapers, magazines, journals and online news outlets. 

But we should admit that in reality, the problems are so serious that they should be addressed.  

The corrupt media blatantly pursue sensationalism, disseminate incorrect or false information and unconfirmed allegations, in many cases intentionally. 

Many of them use the content to menace and harass innocent people and organizations, including commercial companies, to extort hush money in the form of advertisements or demand other favors. 

These outlets often face crackdowns by law-enforcement authorities, but they are amazingly resilient.

This kind of pseudo-journalism, extortionist journalism -- or whatever it is called -- is more prevalent in the online media, partly because there is low entry bar, and once registered, they get easy access to major portals like Naver and Daum Kakao which reach out to a large audience. 

As more people are tempted to take advantage of such an environment, the number of Internet media outlets has grown rapidly in recent years, to 5,877 from 626 in 2006. 

It was not unexpected, but still disturbing to know that during the June-August period this year, only 39.7 percent or 2,333 of the total online news outlets met the legal guideline that the ratio of self-produced news articles should be no less than 30 percent of their total content and that at least 30 percent of all content should be replaced every week. 

What’s astonishing is that 43.8 per cent or 2,572 of the total had not produced a single news story during the period, and 25.5 per cent or 1.501 did not have their own websites. 

This shows that many of the small Internet media outlets do not have the manpower and other resources needed to perform healthy, quality journalistic activities, but only exploit their status to engage in various misdeeds in the name of journalism. 

Given the circumstances, the strengthening of the registration rules for the online media should be seen as a necessary -- albeit not on its own sufficient -- step to kick out unethical and unqualified outlets from the online media industry.