Media is indispensable in our modern society. What do you consider is the role of media? Media monitors the government and serves as a conduit for the public. Here is someone trying to present to the public an unbiased and neutral view of news events. She proves both sides of a story and always allows readers to make judgments of themselves. She is also prominent journalist in our society. SMT met Kim Hyunjung, an anchor of the <Kim Hyunjung's News Show> to learn more about fair media.
Please introduce yourself and your work as a radio producer.
I'm both a producer and radio news anchor. It’s not often you find a person at a broadcasting station taking on two separate roles. When I first joined CBS, I worked as a producer, but by chance, I was placed in charge of a radio current affairs program. I started to host the show as well as produce it.
You started your career with Hankook Ilbo as a reporter in 2000, but a year later you joined CBS as a radio producer. What made you make this quick change?
Ever since when I was 13 years old, I have dreamt of being a radio producer. I fell in love with radio and have been listening to the radio since then. I often thought to myself, "I want to become a host of a show on the radio, too." I never imagined that dream would come true, because all show hosts at the time were TV entertainers. After watching a few recordings of a radio broadcast, I wondered about the people behind the scenes. I realized they are radio producers, and learned about jobs such as radio producer, and made the decision to become one. My dream never changed after I made that decision in my mind. I entered Hankook Ilbo as a reporter because it was hard to find a single job with the economic recession (a.k.a. IMF) at the time, which was in full swing the year I graduated from university. Also, the application examination to be an announcer and reporter were very similar to producer, so I was able to pass it. Still, I couldn't let go of my dream, so a year later, I joined CBS as a radio producer.
As a producer of a music program, how were you able to become an anchor on the <Kim Hyunjung's News Show>?
I wanted to be a music program producer, and becoming an anchor for a news show was indeed an unexpected thing for me. Most radio producers work on music programs. I also produced a music program, but when the anchor of the daytime news show took a two-week vacation, I filled in as a temporary substitute. Then a surprising thing happened. I was asked to become the full-time anchor after program reorganizing. I am sure I would not have done as well as I did without my experience at Ewha Womans University, where I worked as anchor for the school radio station. I had the training, and when it came time to perform, I could do well.
What has been the most difficult part about producing or being on air?
I've been hosting the news show for almost 13 years. To be honest, I’m tired of a lot. One of the difficult part is that things are not always going well as expected because it is not recorded. Moreover, if there is a telephone in or an interview, things become even more unpredictable because there are other people to consider. For interviews, I must work hard to have them talk for 10 to 15 minutes every day. As an anchor, I have to be careful of my words, and since most people I meet are politicians, I must balance myself well between them and my listeners. Another difficulty is that things can change rapidly from day to day because news happens daily. If we prepare four story ideas, at least one or two will change. The way I overcome these issues is to work diligently. I suppose this is the life of every news anchor.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career as an anchor?
I once reported on the story of a young man who died serving his military training requirement due to meningitis. His death was directly related to the poor medical attention he was given in the military. I asked the parents of the dead soldier for an interview. At first, they declined, but I called them frequently believing they wanted their story to be heard. After two weeks, the soldier’s father agreed to an interview. When the interview was broadcasted, many people expressed their sorrow and started to raise their voices for the need for improvements to the military medical system at training centers. Thanks to the public demand, the Ministry of National Defense announced a complete overhaul of its military medical system. It was rewarding to hear soldier's father thanked me about it late.
You worked as a radio producer before returning to Season 2 of <Kim Hyunjung's News Show> in 2014. Why did you leave the radio show to return to producing?
Work as an anchor of a news program can be exhausting. I contemplated quitting work as an anchor and restarting my career as radio producer for some time. I thought if I didn't return to work as a radio producer of music program, later in life I might regret it. Therefore, I left to work as a pop radio producer. It was rewarding work, and I’m sure I would have loved doing it even without pay. However, my devoted past listeners from <Kim Hyunjung's News Show> season 1 started sending me letters requesting I return to the show for season 2. I agonized over it for a long time, between the happiness I felt working as a radio producer and the reward I felt working as an anchor, but finally decided to return to the news show.
You graduated from Ewha Womans University. Did university life at a women's university influence your career and life?
All the leaders at women's universities are women, of course. Usually, many leaders of coeducational universities are men for the reasons they served army military service, so they are mostly older than women students. However, in women’s university, Women must do all the work without men, even if they are hard labors. I am happy I could study at a women's university because it empowered me as a woman. Even after graduating and entering the broadcasting industry, I have the power to lead others. Journalists from other women's universities as well as myself also have the leadership and proper work without any distinction of sex.
As a female radio producer in your 30s, you must have felt pressured to be an anchor of the news show. What kind of difficulties have you faced working as an anchor?
Looking back at all the discriminatory situations I faced as a young woman, and not as a reporter, makes me think it is extremely difficult to work as an anchor of a news show. It was under unusual circumstances that I had such an opportunity, and that makes me happy but burdened. In particular, I worried about whether I can manage working alongside politicians, mostly middle-aged men. However, I eventually overcame that concern, believing that the nature of radio, not being face-to-face media, would be on my side. I think my low voice helped to overcome it, too. Also, I thought it would be difficult for other female journalists to challenge the profession if I didn't do it first. Today there are plenty of female anchors, and people no longer consider it odd. There were difficulties women had to face in the past, but I'm glad the times have changed and it seems that the broadcasting industry is becoming better environment for female journalists than past.
What beliefs or values do you bring to your job as an anchor of an influential news show?
Nowadays, a lot of media presents only the biased aspects that align with their political view. Indeed, these media platforms have gained a large viewership, but I'm skeptical about this direction that media is moving. People in society needs communication because we all live even if we are in different environments and have different opinions. Therefore, media needs to create venues for discussions, even on topics society may not like to hear. That's why I try to present both sides to every story, and I broaden my understanding by carefully listening to both sides. Most of all, media should make listeners think that it's possible for others to have different opinions from themselves. In other words, media must not forget that its first job is to make people communicate.
What are your future plans as an anchor?
I wish there were more full-time female anchors on news channels, and that female anchors no longer had to be ornaments decorating their male anchor fellows. In addition, I'm also curious to know why there are never any "older" women anchors; there are certainly plenty of men. Female anchors in their 40s, like me, are rare, which is another reason I will continue working as an anchor. I heard that in the US, there is one female anchor who is well into her 80s. I hope to be like her. It would be a pleasure to work as an anchor when I'm old, gray, and wrinkled. And then, I want to be a news show anchor who delivers the wider story.
Would you please give some advice to Sookmyungians dreaming of becoming an anchor or radio producer.
If you imagine being a producer or anchor as a fantasy, those professions are not for you. Working in the broadcasting industry, especially news shows, is very hard. If you are serious about it, do not admire the jobs, but work hard towards getting them. Prepare like a producer with all of your energy. If you do this, you also have to remember never to give up. The road to your dream profession will be difficult and at times, seems impossible. However, if you think your way to the dream profession is right, the future will align with your will.
Last, would you please give a message to Sookmyungians?
What I want to say to all university students is that I want you to remember that the things will not go as you expected. In other words, no one can realize when or how chances will come, so you should always be prepared. And this prepared attitude starts with doing your best in everything and building up your own capabilities. When being university student, I had worked for Ewha Womans University's broadcasting station and faithfully participated both as a producer or announcer. Thanks to such experience, I could take responsibility for my tasks. This later helped me be an anchor of the news show when I caught a good chance. All this wasn't what I had planned, but I think I ended up doing what I wanted because I did my best in everything. Therefore, I want you to do your best in everything and expand your own capabilities.
- BA in French Language & Literature at EWHA Womans University
-Anchor of the <Kim Hyunjung’s News Show> Season 1 & 2
-Honor the PD of the year in the Korean PD Awards in 2014