Patterico's Pontifications


More on Demick and the North Korean Puff Piece: Demick Responds to Hugh Hewitt but Ducks an Appearance on His Radio Show

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 6:40 pm

The other day I (and countless other bloggers) faulted Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times for her puff-piece interview with a North Korean government agent. My main complaint was Demick’s failure to challenge the man’s description of himself as a simple “businessman with close ties to the government.” The truth of this criticism becomes clearer with each passing day.

As I (and countless other bloggers) observed, any businessman speaking out about the North Korean government must necessarily be a North Korean government official. This is how North Korea works. But Demick never made this clear in her article.

It has become increasingly clear that this omission cannot be attributed to Demick’s ignorance of that fact. The first piece of evidence was an e-mail from Demick to a Hugh Hewitt listener admitting that the “businessman” was in fact a “North Korean official.” I asked: “Why didn’t we hear this in the article?!?!”

Today, responding to e-mailed questions from Hugh Hewitt, Demick elaborates on the man’s obvious connection to the North Korean government. Hewitt asked: “Do you believe the man you met with in Bejing and interviewed for Thursday’s story was an intelligence operative of the North Korean government?” Demick responded:

His job is to bring foreign investment and development aid into North Korea. As all North Korean business is owned by the Workers’ Party, government or military, he is a government official — or agent, as it were. He spoke in ways that other people would get imprisoned for, which means, not necessarily that he was a spook, but definitely that he is elite with some kind of tie to the top that is his source of protection.

The question remains the same: why didn’t the puff-piece interview explain this??

It is clear that, without such an explanation, some people were fooled into thinking that the views of the “businessman” were representative of the views of average North Koreans. For example, Jong-Il Park of Los Angeles wrote the paper a letter which began:

It is refreshing to hear directly from North Koreans in the article “N. Korea, Without the Rancor” (March 3). Indeed no other media in the U.S., as far as I can recall, conveyed the opinions of North Koreans directly.

How many other readers were fooled by Demick’s failure to explain that the subject of her interview was an agent of the government? (By the way, although we know that countless people have written the paper to protest the puff piece, Mr. Park’s letter is still the only one that the paper has printed in response to Ms. Demick’s interview.)

One final point: Hewitt invited Demick on his program. She responded:

I still need to get permission from my keepers to appear on the program, but I suspect it will not be forthcoming. Sorry about that.

Of course, Demick never flat-out says that she wants to come on Hewitt’s program, and I rather suspect that she doesn’t. But she certainly implies that she would do so if editors allowed her to. Let’s accept that implication as true for the sake of argument.

What is the L.A. Times trying to hide? Hewitt is not Bill O’Reilly. He has a point of view and he will express it, but he would also give Ms. Demick a chance to express hers. I think it is weaselly and cowardly for The Times to refuse to allow Demick to be confronted by people who disagree with her. I thought newspapers were all about freedom of expression . . .

UPDATE: More on Demick’s exchange with Hewitt here.

2 Responses to “More on Demick and the North Korean Puff Piece: Demick Responds to Hugh Hewitt but Ducks an Appearance on His Radio Show”

  1. The L.A. Times: Champion of the Other Side

    Paul (194100)

  2. […] And given how little trust many of give journalists whose records we don’t know anything about, might this not be a way to rebuild the esteem of the profession?  The professionals do not deserve to be tarred with the same brush as the hacks among them, but that’s happening.  You want an example?  I would cite the ferocious attack by some conservative bloggers on the L.A. Times’s Barbara Demick.  Perhaps Demick too easily presumed that he readers would understand what she does:  that the subject of her story was a North Korean government agent.  In the context I cite here, I can understand why Hugh Hewitt attacked one piece of her work.  Plenty of other journalists – Dafna Lizner, Glenn Kessler, and Barbara Slavin — consistently downplay North Korea’s misdeeds.  Demick, however, is actually one of the most professional and diligent journalists who covers Korea, along with Jasper Becker, Donald MacIntyre, Bradley Martin, Don Kirk, Choe Sang-Hun, David Sanger, and the Joongang Ilbo’s Brian Lee (I’d add that you have the whole ideological range in that list).  Hewitt didn’t see the story in the broader context of Demick’s sincere efforts to tell the story of what is going on in North Korea, one of the most important stories in the world today, and one of the hardest to cover.  If there was a Barbara Demick page linked at the bottom of her story, that misunderstanding might not have happened. […]

    OneFreeKorea » al-Yahoo Watch: News Consumers Need Warning Labels, Too (9b19bc)

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