I think that empathy has to play a part in our stance as journalists. We are known for being heartless pigs. Why add fuel to the fire. There is a balance though. We can't let our emotions run away with us. Otherwise we aren't journalists.
I don't think I have ever been fingered as an empathetic person. As a matter of fact, empathy is something I have struggled with acquiring for years now. I think it is an important thing to have. If we, as journalists, don't have it, we will make a lot more unethical decisions. I also think there is something to be said for a journalist who gets their hands dirty in the job. If you understand a person or an issue better, the better you will be able to cover it. In most cases, the better you understand something, the less time you need to explain it, and as journalists, column space counts.
Get in there. Understand the issue, and report it. Take in to account the human factor. Do everything you can be be honest and just. People will criticize you no matter what. Just do what you think is right, and that's all you can do.