Empathy is the first stage of design thinking. Image: Mike Boyson
In the fourth of a series of post on seven habits often associated with good journalism I look at a quality which is much less talked about, and often misunderstood — and why I believe it should be just as central as qualities such as persistence or curiosity.
Empathy — specifically cognitive empathy — is the ability to imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.
It is one of the more underrated qualities of good journalists, perhaps because people often confuse it with sympathy, or with emotional empathy.
The difference is important: it is possible to imagine what it is like to be a particular person (cognitive empathy), including criminals and corrupt officials, without feeling sorry for them (sympathy) or feeling the same way (emotional empathy). Continue reading
By starting from one person you can start to identify the different parts of the systems that affect your topic — and useful story leads and ideas
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been helping students on my MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism and MA in Data Journalism come up with story ideas for specialist reporting and investigations. Part of the process involves an exercise around scoping out a particular subject or system you are interested in — for example, the housing system, or ‘dark kitchens’, the Oscars, or air pollution — and identifying the gaps in your knowledge that can lead to stories.
It’s an exercise where empathy plays a central role.
Here’s how the process works — and why empathy is so important to it. Continue reading