To the Emory community,
In recent days, the Wheel has received criticism regarding its coverage of the death of Oxford freshman Yide “Dave” Zhang. The death of a fellow student is undoubtedly tragic, and a particularly difficult task for student journalists as peers of that individual. As a news organization, it is important that we be open and transparent about our decision-making process and ethical values.
The first coverage released from the Wheel about Zhang occurred when an editor on the Oxford campus, like many students, noticed commotion on campus and accordingly looked for more information. After News Editor Sarah Davis (22Ox) spoke with police officers, editors published the following tweet:
#BREAKING: Outside Jolley Residential Center on Oxford campus, police officers have just placed someone into a hearse. An officer told Asst. News Editor @sarahgdavis_ that Residence Life would release a statement shortly. Updates to follow.
— The Emory Wheel (@emorywheel) March 5, 2021
Information in the tweet was substantiated by photographic proof and conversations with officers on scene. We recognize that the wording in this tweet could have been improved with more time and consideration. We apologize for any harm caused and will do better moving forward.
Our first article on Zhang’s death was based on a March 6 email announcement from Oxford College Dean Douglas Hicks sent only to Oxford students. This article was brief due to little information provided by the University, with the goal of emphasizing the facts to inform the greater Emory community and highlighting group therapy events organized for those at Oxford.
Students on Atlanta’s campus have yet to receive any form of official communication from the University about the passing of a fellow student. As a student newspaper, it is our duty to inform the community. We chose not to speak with Zhang’s family or friends immediately in order to give loved ones time to process.
From the beginning, we never planned to stop coverage of Zhang’s death at a single news article. At the time of this letter’s publication, we are working on a full obituary with Zhang’s family’s permission honoring his life and legacy with quotes from family members and friends. We welcome any comments from those who would like to add to this tribute.
We believe that failing to publish a news article about Zhang’s death would have caused additional stress and worry for Emory students and parents as well as family and friends, given our tweet and public police presence at Oxford on Friday. A news article publicizing official University announcements ensures clear communication, reducing the chance of unsubstantiated rumors.
We welcome future comments and criticism of our coverage.
Isaiah Poritz, Editor-in-Chief
Anjali Huynh, Executive Editor