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 →
It’s been a good week for followers of that endangered beast objectivity. On Friday Glenn Greenwald reported on factual inaccuracies in Time’s Wikileaks article, and the ‘correction’ that was then posted (reproduced above). Greenwald writes:
“The most they’re willing to do now is convert it into a “they-said/he-said” dispute. But what they won’t do — under any circumstances — is state clearly that the Government’s accusations are false, even where, as here, they unquestionably are.”
Kevin Bakhurst has responded to the complaints and the copious comments on his post are worth reading in full – not only because many of them flesh out the debate extremely well (and others would sit well in a textbook on interviewing technique), but because they provide a compelling story of how people’s relationship with the media is changing.
In particular, on the subject of balance one journalist comments:
“This story demonstrates the fallacy of ‘balanced reporting’. On the evidence of the video Mr McIntyre is almost certainly a victim of an assault and battery, he should sue, and if he does – he will almost certainly win. Even if were he found to be in some way contributorily negligent ‘for rolling towards the police’ as it were – the Tort will still have been committed by the police. The Law makes it clear there is no such balance, yet through this kind of aggressive cross examination, perpetrator and victim are reduced to the same standing in the eyes of the viewer: both are placed under suspicion. And – vitally – to begin with such suspicion is not sceptical, but cynical. There’s a considerable difference.”
Meanwhile Kevin Marsh makes a strong argument against the swing from objectivity towards “transparency” as “replacing one impossibility with another”.
I lay all these out as fertile ground for any discussion on objectivity, transparency and ethics.