You don't even have to be around in K-Pop for that long before you realize that Korean reporters are a piss poor example of journalism. Every single Korean entertainment article you read, whether translated or not, basically comes directly from the mouths of the companies involved. By now, you're aware of select entertainment companies manipulating the media or even paying up certain outlets to release articles in their favor, but what you don't probably realize is that it's not only those select companies, but everyone.
In my experience working for a Korean media outlet, I've come to realize that the entertainment media is completely controlled by the upper-ups, and reporters/journalists are only that in name because they really function as nothing more than the ctrl and c+z keys on your keyboard.
What essentially goes on is that Korean companies, big or small, basically draft what they want written about their artists down to every fine detail. They send these out as elaborate "press releases" directly to the inboxes of reporters, and what the reporters do is copy and paste the content and release it into our feeds. That's fine, that's how press releases work. Where the issue lies is that these reporters don't check the information they're being fed, nor do they question it. The company can basically make any statement, far-fetched or not, they want and it'll make it to the news simply because Korean journalism is crap.
How do I know this? I've had press releases come into my inbox, and in no more than 30 seconds - I kid you not - I see the article already out in my news feed from a competing outlet without a single edit from the original copy sent to us. There are variations of this laziness: some outlets will leave out paragraphs while others rearrange the paragraphs, but at no point in between do the reporters think to edit or cross check the information they're being handed.
There are two problems with this.
One, this has allowed companies to get away with controlling and manipulating the media to their favor. The companies that you're all probably familiar with have fine tuned this down to an art. What I mean by this is that it's not just the information that's being handed over. Companies will also include three to five titles they specifically want used as well as netizen comments they completely made up themselves to give the image/idea of positivity associated with their artist.
Two, they can get away with whatever BS they want in the actual content and it's going to make it to the press whether it's true and relevant or not. You think those sel-ca articles you see all the time are just fillers from bored reporters with nothing better to do? No. They were specifically sent out by the companies. Before the picture is even uploaded to the artist's Twitter, we'll receive a press release regarding said picture along with the titles and netizen comments they want used. They're essentially creating their own hype for the purpose of keeping their artist in the headlines and relevant.
That's manipulation, is it not?
Their control doesn't end there, though. For a few extra bucks, companies can buy out entire outlets, like what Kim Kwang Soo/Core Contents Media did with Newsen, and just pay them to constantly release positive press about their artists. Another fun example I like to use with anyone that asks is Park Jin Young/JYP Entertainment paying up Asia Economy to release back to back, nonstop onslaughts of editorials slamming Jay Park back when his scandal was at its height. Sidus HQ releases something good about Jay Park? Asia Economy follows up two seconds later with the release of yet another negative editorial to try and steal the spotlight.
Some companies go even further by buying out the entire portal itself. Netizens are already well aware of companies paying Nate to push articles regarding their artists into the top 10 whether netizens vote it up or not. Every once in a while, you see an article that jumps from rank #698 to #2 in the span of a second, and you know right then and there that the company paid its way up.
The company, in turn, can then go and brag that their artists are the top searched or the top ranking - all those key terms that K-Pop fans love to hear - and in turn write up another "press release" saying their artists are top ranking, therefore continuing the cycle... It doesn't take much to turn a nobody into a top ranking artist provided that your company has the money for it.
So where do netizens come in with all of this?
Because there is no filter in the system at any point in the process, netizens have no choice but to take the role of the bad guy and QUESTION everything. Companies are trying to brainwash everyone about the images they're creating for the artists through all of this manipulation, so do you expect netizens to just sit there, nod their heads, and take it?
Can you see why netizens can't be anything but cynical?
Read an article about a group ranking first on so and so? Question it. Read an article about a solo gaining attention for some stupid nonsensical reason? Question it. Netizens have taken it upon themselves to be the filter and go the extra step that reporters skip by cross checking everything they're being fed and making sure that it's not just hype because 9 times out of 10, it's hype, and a lot of it too.
Remember that whole KARA issue and their Dokdo scandal? Netizens caught on pretty fast when they checked that it was released by Newsen and that reporters at the scene had purposely manipulated the question so that one, KARA wasn't even given an opportunity to answer before they were cut off and rushed along, and two, to create negative press to deflect T-ara's scandal.
I'm not defending netizens. Yeah, there are a lot of extremists that try and push rumors that don't even make sense, but I do think it's important to see where netizens in general are coming from and why they're always so negative or cynical in their view of the articles that international fans generally take at face value.
International fans miss all of the inner investigations that netizens take with each piece because they have no reason not to believe it. Their bias group's comeback was the top ranking search term for the week? Wonderful! (But psst, where is that information coming from?)
Netizen comments play such a huge role in the entertainment industry for this sole reason. They're the ones that do all of the real work - the work that reporters should be doing. The average reader will believe the best reply over the article if contradicting information is presented. It's come to a point where if there are no best replies on a given article, someone is bound to comment, "I clicked on this article to check the best replies but there are none", and that will become the best reply because other people thought the same.
This is the context where terms like "media play" get thrown around because it's just so unfortunately prevalent in the industry that nearly all of the articles you're going to be reading are a form of media play.
Reporters don't just sit around drafting up original content or investigating stuff on their own because they don't have to. Their inboxes are always brimming with articles to copy and paste.
The only outlet that I've seen do any kind of original investigation is Sports Seoul, and they've received a lot of flak from entertainment companies for that. Sports Seoul isn't afraid to fly out reporters to exotic resorts overseas to catch celebrities in the act or get down and find the hardest witnesses to interview to create a case.
Dirty? Yeah... But I don't think the other media outlets are any better for playing it safe and keeping their slates clean.