People view events around the world through news articles and news broadcasts. In order to prepare a story for people, a reporter must cover the latest and most important events of the day. The reporter gathers the facts, organizes them so that they fit on one single newsprint page, and delivers them to the public. SMT interviewed Seol Seongin of Chosun Biz, a reporter who runs directly to the scene of an event in order to provide quick and accurate news. Let’s find out what he has to say about being a journalist and covering the news.
Before we start, would you please introduce yourself and tell our readers about your job?
I am currently Deputy Editor of Technology and Science News Desk of Chosun Biz, the economic media division of Chosun Media Group. This department is responsible for articles on information technology or IT in the areas of science, biology, and so on. I mainly write articles after reviewing and refining manuscripts from our field reporters. I cover global foreign media, domestic industry trends, breaking news, investment information, government policies, and bills under discussion at the National Assembly. I once served as a head of the automobile team and economic team that covered Chaebols at Chosun Biz, and three years ago, I worked in Weekly Biz, the weekend economy section of Chosun Ilbo. My major at university was Electronic Engineering, but upon graduation, I entered the media industry. That was in 2006, and I have been working as a reporter since that time.
What prompted you to become a reporter, and why did you decide to become a reporter?
I’d always been curious about the world from a young age. Also, since elementary school, I have kept a daily diary. I suppose those were the driving forces that I drew myself towards writing and could have confidence in writing, even today. Although I majored in Electronic Engineering, I was always interested in the world as a college student, so I used to spend my time attending special lectures by celebrities, politicians, and businesspersons whenever they came to my school. Indeed, most students in my major dream of careers as engineers or researchers after graduating from university, but I wanted a job in media such as a reporter or producer. Therefore, during my graduate studies at KAIST, I took the examination to become a journalist. After passing the exam, I earned my title as a reporter. I believed that my responsibility as a reporter was to deliver heartwarming stories, I mean good news, from around the world to readers as well as more hard critical news, which shows the dark side of society.
As a reporter in the field of economic management, despite your background knowledge, what challenges have you faced? How have you overcome them?
When I first became a reporter, I had a hard time because college students in science and engineering are often trained through passive activities, I think. For example, when a professor gives an assignment or an exam, most experimental activities are passive activities, not creative and self-reliant activities. However, as a journalist, I had to look at the world holistically and be autonomous and enthusiastic. A reporter decides what they must do each day at the crack of dawn. They decide what stories and how to cover those stories every day at dawn, and then investigate and write articles accordingly. Sometimes, I write a series of articles that point to problems, but being creative is another important aspect. There are times when reporters must write about issues that are easily overlooked by others and resolve unanswered questions or respond to complaints that are encountered in daily life.
Besides article writing, have you had any other difficulties as a reporter?
One senior reporter once told me, "The job of a journalist is to meet strangers every day." This clearly states the most difficult thing about being a reporter. As a reporter, I must meet people I don't know and organize their stories as I deem appropriate. Sometimes, I must make phone calls without knowing the person on the other end of the line. People sometimes involved in social controversies or who have made headlines will not or allow you to visit their offices or homes, and refuse interviews. The competition among reporters is also fierce, so in order to properly complete an article, it is necessary to establish trustworthy contacts. The job of a reporter is tough and physical, and it is stressful due to the pressure to publish. To overcome all of these issues, I work on weekends preparing for weekdays or prepare for the next day in the evening.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a reporter and why?
As I told you earlier, I've been a reporter for 15 years. During this time, I’ve been on about 30 business trips abroad. Those have been valuable and rewarding experiences because in everyday life, it is hard, perhaps impossible, to visit the head office of a global IT company that is making headways in foreign media. Furthermore, in 2012, I had a 24-hour flight followed by a 3-hour boat ride to reach the Amazon area of Brazil in order to report on Aborigines benefiting from technology like the use of the Internet. It was interesting to see children using laptops in places that did not even have fire just a few years ago. As a reporter, I felt proud of my work. I told the world about these Amazon's children, who were once digitally underprivileged, communicating with the world through cutting-edge technology in the 21st Century.
In 2017, you published the book titled What kind of talent does the 4th Industrial Revolution want. What inspired you to write and publish the book?
From the beginning of my career as a journalist, I have been interested in educational issues in the sciences and engineering at universities. Sciences and engineering colleges offer students exposure to technology that will change and advance the world. Such technology changes our individual futures and makes our lives more valuable. Going back to my 30 overseas business trips clearly shows the changes, and throughout my university days, I pondered the thought of publishing a book because I wanted to share my thoughts and views on the world with many people around the world. Regardless of people's agreement with my thoughts, I wanted to communicate with readers and prompt discussions on education at prestigious science and engineering universities around the world and possibly have them consider changing for their future and their students’ future.
If there were something impressive or key messages in the process of writing the book, please tell more about it.
I centered my writing on universities in the United States, Japan, China, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, and Korea. I personally visited many of the schools, but when I could not visit in person, I communicated with professors through e-mail or Skype. While I am the author of the book, it is no exaggeration to say that the book is made from the collective intelligence of some 30 professors, students, and researchers around the world. I am grateful for their communications and the information they provided. It was touching to learn about the past, present, and future of prestigious universities around the world. Among the people, my talk with Kang Sungmo, former president of KAIST, is most memorable. Not only did he agree to the interview, but he also offered a number of comments on the direction I should take with the book and the direction forward colleges of education should take.
Do you have any plan for writing another book?
I am presently gathering ideas for my next book. The theme and title of it will be "Silicon Valley's Table." The Table represents space for a more meaningful life. People generally gather at a table over a meal to exchange ideas. Personally, I'm curious about the types of food consumed and the type of conversation held at restaurants of Silicon Valley, for Silicon Valley is often referred to as the cradle of global technological innovation. It is a book of gatherings at tables where great ideas are born and techniques that will change the history of the world are proposed. Also, at a table, ideas are developed by many people, not just one person's head. That is, people share opinions with others and develop ideas from others' comments. The book about Silicon Valley's Table will be a space for people, technology, and the future to come together and show coexistence.
What plans do you have for your personal future?
I'm preparing to go to California next year. After 15 years as a reporter, I think I need to go somewhere else to study and recharge for a while. During my stay in California, I will work on my next book. As a journalist, I need both a high level of Korean and also a high level of a foreign language. In this regard, to excel during the second half of my life as a reporter, I will study English as it relates to my career. Also, I will try to meet as many and as various cultures and people as possible in Silicon Valley.
What beliefs or values do you hold most important as a journalist of an influential newspaper?
As a journalist, I care most that the article I write is accurate in facts. Just one simple error will destroy the credibility of an article and the reporter who wrote it. I firmly believe in thorough fact-finding and verification. As an engineering major, I lacked knowledge about economics, so I wanted to supplement my knowledge by going to graduate school and getting a Master's degree in economics. Still, this left me feeling a bit unknowledgeable, so I continued onto a doctorate in technology management. I cannot guarantee academic knowledge increases the quality of my articles, but I think it definitely helped me to verify or make logical judgments. Nowadays, people often disparage journalists as "Giregi(means a garbage reporter)," so I hope to fix this idea by writing articles that are meaningful to Korean society. Readers cannot always distinguish between gossip and true news, so the media must take responsibility for writing proper articles and stop relying on clicks.
For students who wish to become journalists at Sookmyung Women's University, would you give them some advice and direction on their path?
For those of you dreaming of becoming a reporter, keep this idea in mind: "Can I struggle through the job without getting exhausted?" Young people often join a company and then quit easily because they become physically exhausted with the workload. In less than a year or two, they change jobs or quit, looking for something better. As a newcomer, you may only get three or four hours of sleep a night. Also, a lot of reporters get discouraged at their lack of skills. The competition will be fierce, and the coverage environment is worsening. If you really want to be a reporter, I recommend getting started right away. Set up the target and go straight for the bull's eye. The application examination to enter a media company differs from tests given for professional certificates. Studying for a long time will not guarantee good results. Also, even if you get in the door, do not get discouraged because you don’t fit in at first.
Last, please offer some words of advice to Sookmyungians.
As university students, you will or will be soon preparing to go out into the vast ocean of society. I hope that you experience all that you can at this time in your life, not just to build up a career for getting a job. Experiences such as part-time work, travel, volunteer work, and hobbies will become much more difficult to do later in life. Think about what you really want out of life and plan for that future. Once you know what you want, try to achieve it by experiencing activities that lead you to the right path to get there. Then you will get something.
-Bachelor of Electronic Engineering from Sogang University
-Ph.D. candidate(Technology Management) from Hanyang University
-What kind of talent does the 4th Industrial Revolution want? -World’s Top 10 Institute Report (2017)
-Staff Writer, ELECTRONIC TIMES
-Deputy Editor, Technology and Science News Desk, CHOSUNBIZ
Jung Kim Hyeseung / Society Section Editor
Choi Kim Seoyoon / Reporter