The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Winged Post
Newsletter

Editor’s Note: Empathy in subjectivity

As+journalists%2C+one+of+our+primary+goals+is+to+honor+the+people+we+report+on.+If+we+omit+compassion%2C+our+articles+lose+life+and+color%2C+and+we+fail+to+do+justice+to+their+stories.%C2%A0
Katelyn Zhao
As journalists, one of our primary goals is to honor the people we report on. If we omit compassion, our articles lose life and color, and we fail to do justice to their stories. 

Deliver the facts, maintain neutrality. There exists a flawed perspective that journalists should strive for objectivity when reporting the news. Yet objectivity gives the impression of detachment and a disconnect from community — especially concerning given that journalism stands on a foundation of trust with its audience.

While covering stories like crane-folding for a teacher diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and the concerning sexualization of minors in K-pop, I grasped the weight of trust placed upon me. As interviewees bared their souls, sharing their beliefs and doubts, hopes and fears, I felt honored to be entrusted with their narratives and struck by the intense empathy I was shown.

This empathy extended far beyond interviews. In my sophomore year, during times of stress and looming deadlines, I remember upperclassmen editors who offered reassurance and support, understanding the pressures of a new reporter all too well. And in my adviser, I found a mentor whose empathy knew no bounds. Through technical difficulties in website redesign and unexpected developments in live coverage, she offered her unwavering guidance and support.

Because of journalism, empathy seeped into every corner of my life, coloring my interactions with friends, family and strangers. It even spilled over to my academic pursuits, infusing my art historical analyses with a sense of compassion. 

Last year, during my internship at the Asian Art Museum, I encountered the exhibition “Into View: Bernice Bing.” A woman, lesbian and Chinese American, Bing faced multiple layers of discrimination in a heterosexual male-dominated art world. Her story resonated deeply, and the journalist in me felt compelled to shine light on her experiences.

So I decided to plunge into my research with the drive and curiosity of an investigative journalist for my Near Mitra project. Despite the differences between academic and journalistic writing, I found that empathy remained a constant. It was essential to see Bing not as a subject confined to dusty archives, but as a multifaceted individual with dreams, struggles and a voice yearning to be heard.

For that reason, while I drew from an array of seminal sources to provide historical context for my paper, I also incorporated Bing’s quotes from retrospective interviews. I aimed to paint a nuanced, comprehensive portrait of Bing’s life — one that accurately represented the depth and richness of her experiences, both within and beyond her artistic endeavors. 

As journalists, one of our primary goals is to honor the people we report on. This requires recognizing them as complex individuals, not merely subjects to study. If we omit compassion, our articles lose life and color, and we fail to do justice to their stories. 

So to every storyteller out there, journalist or not, I urge you: let empathy, not objectivity, guide your storytelling. Embrace nuance and complexity, and honor each individual’s story with compassion.

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About the Contributors
Alena Suleiman
Alena Suleiman, Aquila Co-Editor-in-Chief
Alena Suleiman (12) is the co-editor-in-chief of Harker Aquila, and this is her fourth year on staff. Alena wishes to interact with new people and work with all members of staff to craft engaging stories. Beyond journalism, she is an exhibited artist, humanities scholar and art museum enthusiast.
Katelyn Zhao
Katelyn Zhao, Humans of Harker Co-Editor-in-Chief
Katelyn Zhao (12) is the co-editor-in-chief of Humans of Harker, and this is her fourth year on staff. Katelyn aims to honor each of the stories within the Harker community this year, especially those of the graduating Class of 2024. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys biking, drinking coffee or matcha and reading recommended books from her friends.

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