Sunwhee Mike Park

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Something that was entirely unexpected for me this semester was the amount of genuine, personal connections that I made with the sources that I interviewed. I think I always approached reporting in a strictly professional way, and never imagined having relationships with my sources outside of a professional context. This semester especially, in the midst of a pandemic and the sheer absence of face-to-face encounters, I thought that this would certainly continue to be the case.

However, the sources that I talked to surprised me with how personable they were, how easily they opened up to me, and how close I felt to them when listening to their stories. During interviews, I felt myself feeling more at ease and increasingly feeling like I was simply having a conversation with these people, instead of interviewing sources. In essence, it felt as though I had made a friend after each interview – something I never anticipated while reporting. Since my stories focused primarily on Black business owners and community leaders, I now want to visit them in their elements in person as soon as the opportunity arises.

Apart from the personal connections I made, though, I grew a lot as a professional in this field as well. In the past, the task of reaching out to sources, setting interview times, and then the final act of interviewing itself felt hugely taxing to me. As a natural introvert, it is directly outside of my nature to do these things. This semester, however, I felt a push – both out of necessity and of my personal desire to grow out of these introverted tendencies – to just put myself into those uncomfortable situations as much as possible in order to build a sort of tolerance.

With this change in mindset, I certainly felt myself becoming more confident and efficient in all aspects of my reporting. Having sent out so many interview inquiry emails (and being rejected by quite a few of them), reaching out to people barely crosses my mind as a task anymore. I’ve also become more skillful in finding ways to contact sources, sometimes talking to a handful of people just to get through to the source I want. Finally, the interview process (as I mentioned above) started feeling more natural, comfortable and conversational instead of presentational. I feel almost like I could translate my skills directly into the professional field now.

But perhaps most importantly, reporting on this beat has allowed me to become more active in my own community. I spoke with several Black leaders whose activism and devotion to Utah’s Black community is simply inspiring. I think the idea of activism and being a leader in a community felt like it was reserved for a special kind of person who had special skills to take on such daunting responsibilities. But hearing many of these leaders’ stories, they claimed to have started in a similar place: without much knowledge or experience, but with great passion and ambition. Their stories made me start to understand that it does not take much to get started in activism. I began to feel that I have a responsibility to represent and speak up for my community, to help it grow and overcome its many challenges in this country.

With that in mind, I attended and spoke at my first march this semester, to condemn the recent rise in violence against AAPI (Asian-American and Pacific Islanders). Additionally, I am now focused on reporting as much as possible on this issue (separately from Voices). I truly think that speaking with Utah’s Black leaders, and understanding that I could be a leader in my own community through devotion and passion, was crucial in making my decision to get involved in activism.

ABOUT ME:

Sunwhee Mike Park is a student reporter at the University of Utah. He is a fourth-year student completing his bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism, and minoring in writing and rhetoric studies. He originally attended the University of Utah Asia Campus in Songdo, South Korea, before moving to Salt Lake City in 2021.

Park is already a published writer in his native South Korea. Beginning in 2019, his pieces have been printed in publications such as The IGC Journal and Incheon NowHe was also the head writer for the Songdo Chronicle – the Asia Campus’s iteration of the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Park’s interest in journalism began in 2016, when he shadowed a freelance journalist covering the protests against former President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, South Korea. Park began to film and narrate his own reports of the protests independently in the field, which he considers to have been an invaluable introduction to journalism and the spark that lit his passion for reporting.

In his final year at the U, Park serves as the treasurer for the International Student Council and works as an international ambassador for the International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) office. Tying his passion for journalism to his interest in international affairs, Park hopes to work in the global communication field in the future.