By Dan Stark
Westhampton Beach High School
Prior to the pandemic, journalism wasn’t something Shian James-Harden was considering as a career. It wasn’t even one of her many interests, which include dance, law, and entrepreneurship. But after living through a year of the COVID-19 pandemic in which reporting on the disease and its political ramifications ranged from fact to totally wrong, she was inspired to investigate a career in journalism.
Writing, however, has always been one of her favorite pastimes. “When I was younger, I would go places and write about them in my journal as if I was a publisher, but I never took it seriously,” said the rising junior at Gotham Professional Arts Academy in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
Another interest since childhood that has propelled her toward journalism is photography. She was inspired by her father, Aziz Harden, a professional photographer, who remembered, “I would take Shian on some of my jobs where she would assist me with taking photos. I explained to her that you must tell a story when taking pictures. I believe that that was the moment Shian began her love for photojournalism.”
Like many others stuck at home during the pandemic, she watched the news frequently to stay updated. In doing that, she developed a new perspective about the news media. “It made me understand how unreliable [some] news is,” she said. “It made me think, ‘I’ve got to get reliable news.'”
During the past school year, her guidance counselor told her about the Robert W. Greene Summer Institute for High School Journalists and recommended it as an opportunity to learn more about the field. Shian was accepted as one of the 28 students from Long Island and New York City.
She hopes the Greene Institute can help her reach several goals. One is a better understanding of the role of journalism.
“I hope to learn more about why journalism is more important,” she explained. “I also want to learn the history and development of journalism.” Shian also wants to learn more about reporting, writing and photography. She hopes to use all this in order to develop her own distinct writing voice.
Above all else, Shian hopes to use what she will learn from the program to help curb media bias. “I believe in understanding everyone’s point of view to find the truth.”