On Monday, local news outlets reported that Kim Jong-hyun, a singer in the K-Pop boy band SHINee, had died. He was 27. Jong-hyun (who went by Jonghyun) was found unconscious in a rented apartment in the southern Seoul neighborhood of Cheongdam-dong. There are conflicting reports about whether police are investigating his death as a suicide or not, and whether Jonghyun’s family has requested an autopsy; just before his death, Jonghyun’s sister received multiple text messages from her brother, including one that said “Final farewell.”
It’s a tragic story—one made worse by the fact that on Tuesday, the day after the news of Jonghyun’s death broke, NBC Chicago used footage of a totally different person, another member from a separate K-Pop group, during its news segment about Jonghyun. While covering the details of the late singer’s death, the news channel showed a clip of the boy band BTS on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, zooming in on the face of RM, the lead singer. According to Billboard, BTS is one of the only K-Pop acts to score a daytime TV appearance in the U.S.; the only other K-Pop artists to have done so are two girl groups, Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation, and “Gangnam Style” star PSY.
The K-Pop site KoreaBoo caught the glaring error and news of the mix-up quickly spread across the late singer’s fan base. This morning, NBC Chicago tweeted an apology over the mistake.
It really shouldn’t have been hard for NBC Chicago to check that it was airing footage of the right international pop star; the news anchor during that segment also mentioned how SHINee went to the American Music Awards, but again, that was BTS. At best, this comes across as unprepared and careless; at worst, profoundly lazy and implicitly racist. U.S. newsrooms are still overwhelmingly white today in 2017; having more people of color working in media, reporting the news, would help avoid gaffes like this. This isn’t even about making a case for diversity in media (which I will make over and over again). It’s making a case for getting the story right, especially when it’s a subject that white reporters and broadcasters are personally unfamiliar with. Anyway, hire more music writers of color, or do your fucking homework.