Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Want to read a local newspaper on a Monday morning in Wyoming? The last one still printing is about to stop
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 26, 2018, 12:06 p.m.

There’s a lot of differences between medicine and journalism — you don’t need a license to practice, journalism, for one — but one underlying similarity is the importance of empathy.

“Journalism isn’t typically a matter of life and death, but it’s as much a listening profession as medicine. In telling stories, we care for our communities, just as doctors help ensure the health of our bodies. Can journalists use similar techniques to provide more representative coverage of communities that are unlike them?”

That’s the mindset P. Kim Bui uses to open her report on empathy strategies in newsrooms for the American Press Institute, published Thursday.

Empathy has been a recurring need for journalists, from connecting with your sources in person to developing virtual reality material that encourages users to take action. As trust in media teeters, building positive relationships with people who interact with the media doesn’t hurt, either.

“You’re not the first one [from the media] to come,” said Keith Woods, vice president for newsroom training and diversity at NPR. “And the last one that came, came with nothing. And the one before that.”

He described the art of empathy for the report as “understanding the perspectives of the people in that community and letting them tell their own stories.”

Here’s how Bui identifies the three types of empathy:

Cognitive: This is the ability to see the world through another person’s perspective.

A reporter can employ cognitive empathy to approach an underserved community, using techniques that help him understand people with opposing views and from different backgrounds.

Behavioral: This is the verbal and nonverbal communication that indicates someone understands another person or her perspective.

Reporters can also practice behavioral empathy by using verbal and nonverbal signals to show they’re working to understand another person’s feelings and ideas. These signals can be simple, like putting your pen down to let someone cry or looking into his eyes as he speaks.

Affective: This involves physically and emotionally experiencing another person’s emotions.

The third kind of empathy, affective empathy, makes many journalists uncomfortable. They believe sharing a source’s emotions is a sign they’ve gotten too close and jeopardized their impartiality.

Bui also compiled an exhaustive list of recommendations for reporters, photojournalists, videographers, editors, managers, and news directors for incorporating more empathy into their work, with specific examples and case studies from editors and journalists throughout the report.
The full report is here.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 50,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Want to read a local newspaper on a Monday morning in Wyoming? The last one still printing is about to stop
Wyoming has six “daily” newspapers, but now none of them will actually print a paper seven days a week. It could be the first time a U.S. state will publish no newspapers on Monday mornings…ever.
Biased algorithms on platforms like YouTube hurt people looking for information on health
A user with greater health literacy is more likely to discover usable medical advice from a reputed health care provider, such as the Mayo Clinic.
What makes people avoid the news? Trust, age, political leanings — but also whether their country’s press is free
“Many people’s news habits quite sensibly depend on the news available to them, and in some cases they may have good reason to view such sources as deficient or untrustworthy.”