There I was, sitting at the end of the roundtable in The KAIST Herald newsroom, feeling the weight of all the eyes on me. How excruciating it was to realize that every word that left my mouth would determine my first impression on the people evaluating my potential as a Herald reporter. Never before in my life have I been more stressed over and attentive to each and every word. Yet, when asked the question, “what is journalism to you?”, I made no hesitation and was able to say immediately, “journalism, to me, is about searching for the truth.”
This is one of my earliest fragments of memories with The KAIST Herald, the newspaper that I have worked for and grown attached to since my first semester at KAIST. Two years since joining the Herald, I have now become the Editor-in-Chief, writing my first Letter from the Chief for the first issue of my term. While I look forward to the adventures that await my term during the following year, I also want to take this opportunity to look back and reflect upon my initial determination and resolve that guided me to become the person I am today.
In retrospect, my response to the question may not have been the most original nor impressive; some might say it was clichéd even. As simple as it may be, however, upholding the truth is the fundamental principle of journalism I have been and still am determined to live by. My adherence to such principles was recently reaffirmed this summer when I had the opportunity to talk face to face with Sang-Min Lee, who is the current member of the Korean National Assembly representing Yuseong district as well as the Chairman of the Legislation and Judiciary committee.
Seeking his advice as an aspiring editor, I asked Chairman Lee about his views on the roles and responsibilities of the media, to which he responded, “absolute power corrupts, and it is the role of the media to act as the watchdog to keep society’s most powerful in check.” That statement reignited my ideals about journalism from my younger days. In part due to the heroism glorified by Hollywood, I have oft considered journalism to be a noble profession: who could deny the courage and determination of war correspondents and undercover journalists who risk their lives on the front line for a story? This was what seduced me into the world of journalism in the first place. As a journalist, I wanted to become the beacon of justice, a voice of the people, and a whistleblower exposing the injustices and lies of the corrupt establishment. I wanted to right the wrongs and fight the power.
Two years ago, I was a wide-eyed freshman fresh off the boat from high school and eager to quench my thirst for truth and knowledge. To me, KAIST was an eternal fountain teeming with freedom of thought, intellectual inquiry, and vast opportunities for learning. Reality, however, set a stark contrast from my expectations of college life: my dive into the fountain felt more like a sensation of drowning in a muddy waterhole clouded with uncertainty. The more I learned and experienced, both inside and outside the campus, the less I became confident about whether strict adherence to the truth is even an obtainable goal in the first place. My ideals towards the truth started to falter with the realization that the world was more grey than black-and-white. There were both sides to every story.
Then, is adherence to the truth all but a personal illusion? Is the truth, at the end of the day, just one of the many viewpoints that is just successful at manipulating and indoctrinating the readership? Have I achieved what I set out to achieve as a journalist over the years?
Truth is, I feel it is too soon to say. I view writing as a never-ending journey; the learning never stops. Despite the uncertainties and hardships that I may face in the following year to come, I promise to myself and the readership that I will uphold the truth first and foremost.
Young Jip Kim