“It would be easier to pay attention to what Minerva is saying than to try to silence him." Have you ever heard a comment like this before? Why would this be said on a newscast? In the past, news anchors have apologized for such comments and hoped that both sides might reach a compromise, these are stereotypical phrases.
Recently Shin Kyoung-min, the anchor of MBC TV’s prime time news program, Newsdesk, drew keen public attention with his closing comments at Newsdesk.
The Hanyang Journal met with Shin Kyoung-min and talked to him about his professional life and asked him to provide some words to university students who might be pursuing a career in journalism.
Shin Kyoung-min, Just an Ordinary Person
Q: Please tell me a little bit about Shin Kyoung-min.
A: I am so embarrassed. I have not considered this question before. To characterize myself shortly is very difficult. I am just one of many reporters. Being an anchor is my side or additional job. I joined MBC and worked as a reporter for 28 years.
Q: Netizens, an online news organization, stated that you looked very stiff compared to other anchors
A: Other anchors are laughing on the air? I have little facial expression. During newscasts I always look stiff because smiling is difficult for me. My acquaintances have told me to act more naturally and add humor, but it is not my nature.
Q: What did you do when you were at University?
A: My major was Sociology. I entered into university during a dictatorship, so all of semesters, I took only two semesters for whole. The University shut its doors so students met through acquaintances and studied at professor’s offices, houses or coffee shops. We spent most of the time talking and debating issues regarding the dictatorship. Nowadays debate about that same topic is valid. Everyone thought dictatorship had ended, but sadly today’s situation is the same.
Q: What do you do in your spare time? What media do you watch?
A: I do not have much spare time. Even though my broadcast is only 45 minutes long, I spend almost all day preparing. Constantly listening, seeing, writing and asking questions to people are what I do every day. I watch all types and forms of media as needed. As far as foreign language is concerned, I only speak English, so I usually watch BBC (British broadcasting Corporation) or CNN (Cable News Network). Due to the development of broadband we can now make contact with many sources.
Q: Is there somebody you respect? Who would you say respects you?
A: I do not have respect for anyone in particular. We all have to respect people who might help solve our problems. General Yi Sun-sin, King Sejong or Abraham Lincoln might be respected by many people, but they cannot solve our problems. I have not found someone to respect, yet. Please let me know if you know somebody.
Between Anchor and Reporter
Q: You have been both a reporter and an anchor. Do you prefer one role over the other?
A: I do not have an aptitude to be an anchor. I prefer the role of reporter. Reporters have many sections and beats. Beats are small units of a section. A reporter’s personality matches his or her beats. I am regarded as low a key, diplomacy and unification beat. I have been to other countries as a reporter and they treated me like a diplomat because my personality is similar to a diplomat’s.
Q: What is the difference between a TV reporter and a newspaper reporter?
A: They are clearly different. I entered into MBC without knowing anything. In the 1960s, TV reporters were not shown during a broadcast. In the 70s, TV reporters gradually appeared in broadcasts In the latter half of the 80s, TV reporters were put in the limelight through different means and tasks. Newspaper reporters gathered all of the news and wrote articles compared with TV reporters only gathering approximately half of the news they reported. TV reporters deal with production which is a very important function.
Q: Are you still gathering news?
A: Of course. Many people misunderstand news anchors. Anchors have an effect on news gathering and editing. They do the interpretation and the analysis. After the 1970s, anchors had to do a majority of the work. However, lately anchors have become just newsreaders not commentators. Tasteless, simple presentations and summary news is common these days. It is essential that anchors take a specific standpoint on the messages they report on.
Q: Your standpoints are always very strong and certain. Have you ever received an offer to participate on the TV program 100minutes debate?
A: Yes I have, but I decided not to attend. I dislike debate programs. In Korea, a debate culture is not a mature discussion but just a way for an individual to self assert their opinion. Debate programs are more like battlefields than true discussions. We might need to debate about debate programs.
Q: Some people have said, Newsdesk’s 30second closing comment is the only way to receive the truth. What do you think about that?
A: Who said that? I make an effort to state complementary comments. Usually I talk about important issues that were not dealt with during the news cast or mentioned on air. Sometimes, as times goes by, people might not understand my specific comments because they contained meaning only for that day.
Q: Regarding public broadcasting, listeners place value on an anchor’s comments on the news. There are people who have said your comments are inappropriate. What do you think of this statement?
A: People treat anchors like accessories. I am not seeking to prevent their criticism, but I would tell them just one thing; “They should criticize based on the facts presented” They criticize me with regional prejudice and if I criticize the current regime, they call me a pro-Pyongyang activist. Power can be made by as little as two people and power can always be abused or exercised excessively. The role of the press is to monitor and criticize those in power.
Q: Do you feel pressure to make a closing comment at the end of your newscast?
A: Yes I do. Finding the most important issue of the day is not easy and the fact that my comments are well-known and will be on everybody’s lips is very stressful.
Q: Your comments mostly involve criticism. Do you have any intentions to say praise comments about the government?
A: Actually I do not know. My wife and other co-workers have said “Talk about softer (less controversial) issues and try to give more comments of praise.” But recently, there have been so many difficult issues, so I cannot help criticizing them. Also, there are many more issues that need criticism available than issues that involve praise.”
Q: What is your opinion regarding university students of today?
A: I think of cub reporters. You can see the absence of the critical mind. We need to teach students to develop a critical mind. They do not recognize why certain situations need to be criticized. Nor are they able to see matters from a different angle. Not only do they need to learn how to record the facts but also to criticize and interpret them are important characteristics of a reporter. In the university curriculum, the skill of learning to cultivate a critical mind is insufficient.
Q: Please give some advice to students preparing to become reporters.
A: As I mentioned above, if you want to be a reporter, be aware that this news medium is different and the tasks are different than for other types of reporting. Make up your mind firmly about which job you want to attain, a TV reporter, a newspaper reporter, or an internet news reporter.
Q: Will you say something to all university students?
A: I know students take a serious view on employment. But understanding human life is more important. A basic understanding of human nature and a strong personal determination and resolution are needed to succeed. Be a doer not a talker. Read as many books as possible and discuss issues with other people to prevent distortion of the facts and prejudice of different peoples and places.
- Shin Kyoung-min
- Born in 1953
- Completed Jeonju high school
- Graduated from the College of Social Sciences, Seoul National University
- Joined MBC as a TV Reporter in 1981
- Washington correspondent in 2000
- Chief reporter for MBC Media in 2003
- Weekday anchor for MBC Nightly News, Newdesk in 2008