How to develop empathy as a core habit in good journalism

Empathy is the first stage of design thinking. Image: Mike Boyson

Empathy as an interviewing tool

Design thinking literature has useful tips for developing empathy. Image: Ditte Hvas Mortensen/Interaction Design Foundation
  • A ‘victim’ might be worried about repercussions from the person or organisation he or she is a victim of, or concerned about increased media attention and the impact on his or her family
  • Someone ‘accused’ might be worried about being judged, or fear repercussions from others involved
  • An academic expert might be too busy hitting a conference deadline or buried in end-of-term marking, or might receive dozens of enquiries every week, and does not see journalistic approaches as a priority. Or they might think journalists typically have only a superficial understanding of the issue and will make mistakes when trying to report it
  • A police officer might have to refer all press enquiries to the press office, or have concerns about legal issues such as contempt
Research by the American Press Institute found widespread lack of understanding of terms used by journalists
  1. Understand each party
  2. Express that understanding
  3. Seek confirmation from the parties that they feel understood by the mediator
  4. Receive that confirmation.

Empathy as a presentational tool

Empathy as a tool for finding sources and information

Empathy can be used as an investigative tool to map systems to come up with story ideas

Empathy as an audience-building tool

Cognitive empathy versus emotional empathy

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Write the @ojblog. I run the MA in Data Journalism and the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism @bcujournalism and wrote @ojhandbook #scrapingforjournos

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Paul Bradshaw

Paul Bradshaw

Write the @ojblog. I run the MA in Data Journalism and the MA in Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism @bcujournalism and wrote @ojhandbook #scrapingforjournos