Life as an Entertainment Reporter - Interview with Reporter Lee Hye-ri of Sports Dong-A

등록일 2017-04-03 조회 502

There is a group of people who pay close attention to every move by celebrities, even more so than fans. They are the entertainment reporters. Film premieres, production press conferences for television series, showcases for album release? wherever there are celebrities, there are the reporters. Even when celebrities do not appear in public, the reporters' eyes are directed toward them. Are entertainment reporters simply gossip makers, as the public largely assumes them to be? I met reporter Lee Hye-ri, who was battling day and night for the public's right to know, of Sports Dong-A and learned about the life of an entertainment reporter.



Image 1: Reporter Lee Hye-ri covering the Cannes Film Festival



Q. I wonder what led you to become an entertainment reporter. Was it your dream to become a reporter from when you were young? 

I never considered being a reporter from the beginning. But I liked writing and meeting people. Naturally I was led to join a university newspaper. After two years of working for the newspaper, a joint media group named was established. I applied to become one of the first generation reporters and unexpectedly got accepted. Looking back, it was not a very special experience, but I had a lot of fun back then. It was a time the media was not as big as had as many forms as it does today. With just the title of a university reporter, I could cover prominent domestic film festivals. It was wonderful to meet many people who I could not meet on my own outside of that role. And then, I became one of the first intern reporters of the Chosun Ilbo. Looking back, I was lucky. 

It was not easy to work as an intern reporter. It was just for two months, but I worked just as diligently as junior reporters who were formally employed. I got to know many people who were working in the field, including senior reporters, and learned a lot about reporting methods and ways to treat sources. I was physically exhausted, but more than anything else, the work was fun and psychologically rewarding. Thus, I decided to become a reporter and formally began my life as a reporter at No Cut News run by CBS. 


Q. Not everyone who is good at writing and likes meeting people becomes a reporter. Among all the jobs out there, why did you choose to be a reporter? 

I liked knowing something that other people don't through my efforts. This is called a scoop. Of course, I do not always succeed in getting a scoop. There is a saying, 'Nothing is new under the sky.' It is stressful to write something new every day. Furthermore, there are many cases where the title of reporter itself is a bother to other people. Even when I meet people with whom I feel comfortable, they feel discomfort by the fact that I am a “reporter”. However, the exhaustion I’ve accumulated over months from going through so many difficulties all vanish like magic if I get a scoop or get a good reaction for my “sensational article”. I am enraptured when all other media reports use the material presented in my article and the public shows a passionate response. This is the motivation that prevents me from giving up the job of reporting.


Q. This is your twelfth year as a reporter. I heard you worked for the entertainment division from the very beginning. It seems that you must have faced many difficulties. What drives you and keeps you going to this day? 

There is nothing special about working for the entertainment division. I just happened to work there. When I joined CBS No Cut News, online media was starting and “dotcom” newspapers began to rise. It had to be different from the traditional media that covered politics, economy, society, and culture. I think entertainment was especially well suited to this new form of media. There was also a leading trend in the company to strengthen coverage of entertainment, so I, as a new reporter, was deployed to cover that.

The work was fun from the very beginning. I got the opportunity to move to another division, but I didn't take it. Your network is almost everything when it comes to getting the coverage you need, and I couldn’t just throw away the personal ties I was barely able to build when I was starting out. In this field, everything is determined by how many people you know. Just because you have the contact information of a celebrity's manager does not mean you can always liaise with the celebrity. Just because you go to premieres and write reviews when a film releases does not mean you are an entertainment reporter. As a reporter, you have to dig up what is hidden. Personal ties can provide you with that information?that’s what’s most important.    


Q. What process does a reporter go through when she collects materials and produces an article?

First of all, there is a difference between newspapers and online media. In the case of online media, whenever there is an issue, an article is written at the site most of the time. In the case of newspapers, people prepare the materials to be published the next day. In my case, after going to the office, if I present a pair of news items for articles to be featured the next day. Then, the department head collects the items from all the department members. The morning is almost over by the time the items are selected at a desk gathering of heads from each department, and the pages are composed. During the afternoon, each reporter goes out to cover a story or meet people in the field. Unlike other divisions, such as the politics division and the economy division, the members of our division do not have a particular beat. Thus, we usually gather information by meeting often with people who are working for a production company or a management company.  

There are stories which can be covered and written into an article in one day, and there are stories that I have to track and observe over a longer period of time. In the case of film, I often have to conduct interviews with actors. 

In the entertainment sector, there is a fervent war among reporters over coverage, so I fail almost daily to cover what I want. These days, because of SNS, you don't know when, where, and how an issue will arise. Even if it is an issue to which you’ve been paying close attention for several months after receiving information from a source (a production or a management company), there are cases in which it’s reported first by other media due to unpredictable factors.


Q. In the entertainment division, tasks are divided to cover film, record, or television series. What differences are there in their coverage methods?

I will talk about this from the perspective of film industry coverage, the task I’m responsible for. Basically, you follow the procedures a film goes through. It takes about a year for planning, investment, production, filming, a production briefing session, preview, interview, release, and the end result. Among the hundreds of films released in a year, I try not to miss the important ones. On an average week, there are 1 or 2 production briefing sessions, 2 previews, and 1 or 2 interviews. In between these events, I check the issues that haven’t surfaced across the industry, and I cover the lives of actors. 

In entertainment, only film production has a scale that matches the label of “industry.” Thus, I closely observe the changes in policy and the industrial environment. For instance, among investment companies, distributors, production companies, and management companies, the biggest news these days is a bill that have been put forth regarding the “dismantlement of the vertical hierarchal order within the film industry.” I am stressing over how to put this into an article, thinking about the position of the industry and the influence the bill can have?if it passes?throughout the film industry. 

For television series, the situation is similar to that in the film industry, though the biggest keywords today are THAAD, China, and the Korean Wave. In the field of music, I routinely cover albums and music files that are released each day, and the overall rankings. As K-pop recently has been gaining popularity across foreign countries, I also monitor overseas reactions. 


Q. What are characteristics one should have as an entertainment reporter?

It is most important to look at the same facts differently. What I have endlessly heard from my seniors was that 'Eventually, articles should convey your unique voice as a reporter.' This might sound cliche, but this is important. If a celebrity couple is getting married, for example, I do not directly make the facts into an article, but I also cover the process the couple has went through. The same goes for interviews. When an actor appears in a film, he will interview with, at maximum, 70 to 80 media. The same questions and same answers come and go. I try to get a personal story about how this actor has lived outside the film, learning more about his or her personality and values. Too many articles are too similar. That’s why, through my own lens as a reporter, I try to deliver a different story to the reader. Of course, it is not very easy to do this. 

As I have mentioned before, networking is important. Since I pursue relationships with many people, I need to get them on my side. Many things begin from receiving information, so a “person” is a valuable asset to an entertainment reporter. It is important how you connect with other people and continue those relationships.


Q. There are many opportunities for you to meet not only top stars, but also big names in the industry. In actual life, what is it like to talk with them?

Basically, I feel that a celebrity is someone with a job, just like us. In most cases, however, we’re meeting for an interview that will be published?and it’s not really a personal interaction. They are very cautious about how they answer my questions, as well as all other aspects of interacting with me. Usually, actors are more careful than singers. I understand because they get a lot of public attention. They have to be careful with every action and every word. If their intentions are misunderstood, it could lead to some unexpected controversy. The interesting thing is that each person has his or her own style of being careful. That’s because everyone has a different personality. There are actors who reveal their charms during an interview and give very witty replies. For such actors, I can write more than 3 full A4 format pages. However, there are also people for whom it is difficult to fill even half a page. Studying these different types of people provides me a bit of pleasure. 


Q. There are negative reactions from the public in regard to entertainment articles and reporters?they think that reporters write provocative articles or clickbait and excessively dig into the private lives of celebrities. What do you think about this? 

I think those controversies will always be there. I feel that provocative and sensational articles are gradually decreasing and the content is showing more integrity. There have been some efforts from web portals to improve the structure and there’s a lot of feedbacks from readers, so this really promotes ethics for journalists. 

Still, there is a lot of clickbait out there. It’s very unfortunate to see reporters who do not cover a case themselves but are dependent on news items that an advertising team of a company provides for them. I try not to release facts that are unchecked, even if I’m pressed for time. I also prevent my juniors from falling to such temptations. You need to check your f acts more and do additional coverage to get your facts right. By doing so, even if you cannot produce a perfect article, you can minimize the number of articles with counterarguments. 

I don’t agree with the opinion that entertainment related articles are nothing more than trifling and volatile reports with the sole purpose of digging into the private lives of celebrities. Before becoming an entertainment reporter, I also thought, “Why should I care who such-and-such an actor is dating?' However, what is clear is that there is no other type of news that can have such an impact throughout the public. “Entertainment” exists in order to provide fun for people. The same goes for news about celebrities who work in this industry. And clearly, there has been change in culture. Celebrities these days approach articles differently. In the case of news about their relationships, they almost always admit the truth. 


Q. As you have spent 12 years as a reporter, you must have seen a lot of things. The entertainment industry has a lot of hardships and it must be difficult to adapt to it. Nevertheless, there are juniors who want to follow your path. What is your advice for them? 

Being an entertainment reporter is not like a hobby. You have to cover the news as if you’re in a battlefield and everywhere you go, there are enemies. In the case of a police station or a government ministry, they have a stable news beat so that the system is able to function normally. That is not so with the entertainment world. Just because you regularly enter a broadcaster or a management company does not mean you have anything special. This is an area where the reporter has to independently pioneer everything. A movie reporter does not go to previews every day, nor does a drama reporter watch dramas daily. A reporter who covers music does not meet singers every day. You first need to understand this.

Nevertheless, entertainment news can have a big impact on people: you can feel a sense of accomplishment in your work. This is especially true when, after months of failure, you get a big scoop that has a huge impact on the public. You might not be able to make the pieces of information you’ve collected into an article, but spend some time contemplating over ways to combine those pieces to produce a story of your own. As you continue to experience new environments, meet people whom ordinary person can hardly hope to meet, and write your own story that other people have yet to know, you’ll one day discover that you’ve gained some competence as a real reporter. 



  • 성명 : Minju Kwon
  • 약력 : Chief Editor of webzine 'Hallyu Story'