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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

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International Online Conference on:
How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?
Permanently Ongoing

Sub Conference:  How can Journalism and Media Build a Culture of Empathy?

Pursuing an Ethic of Empathy in Journalism
Janet Blank-Libra

Janet Blank-Libra teaches courses in journalism as well as foundational courses in composition and literature at Augustana University, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She also regularly teaches courses in literary journalism and creative nonfiction. Janet is the author of Pursuing an Ethic of Empathy in Journalism. This book advances a journalistic theory of empathy, challenging long-held notions about how best to do journalism based only on "objectivity". Because the institution of journalism has typically equated empathy and compassion with bias, it has been slow to give the intelligence of the emotions a legitimate place in the reporting and writing process.  


"When journalists practice an ethic of empathy and compassion, they do not forfeit their objectivity. Empathy seeks to understand the other, not produce agreement with the other. For this reason, empathy compels fair treatment of all sources. Just as one should empathize with the poor person, he or she should empathize with the public official." 


Sub Conference: Journalism and Media

The Need for Listening and Empathy in Journalism: Josh Stearns and Edwin Rutsch

Josh Stearns is a journalist, organizer and community strategist. He is Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director for Free Press, a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization working to reform the media through education, organizing and advocacy. In this dialog we talk about the role of empathy, listening and community in journalism.


Josh wrote the article, The Need for Listening and Empathy in Journalism. He writes, "What is the role of empathy in journalism?...  the question of empathy has two facets: empathy in the newsroom, and the empathy our stories foster in our readers. What connects these two elements is the act of listening...

Better reflecting and responding to our communities has to start with better listening. While journalism is rooted in interviews, there’s not enough discussion about the need to listen to our communities. And by listening, I don’t mean simply talking to sources or listening for story leads; I mean listening for the sake of understanding and building truly reciprocal relationships with readers." 

Sub Conference: Journalism and Media

 Arianna Huffington: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group.  She is the author of numerous books including, On Becoming Love, Work, and Life.   Here is an interview I did with Arianna via email.

How can we build a culture of empathy?

'"To a physicist a critical mass is the amount of radioactive material that must be present for a nuclear reaction to become self-sustaining. For the empathy movement, a critical mass is when the empathy habit is cultivated by enough people that it can begin to spread spontaneously. I think of it as an outbreak of a positive infection. And everyone has the potential to be a carrier. So one thing we can do is to spread it as widely as possible...  


 I think the opposite of empathy is the projection of our own fears onto others. We've seen this over and over again throughout American history. In times of economic upheaval, when huge numbers of people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and feeling powerless to do anything about it, it has always been the case that people look for scapegoats. Empathy is the antidote to that. "
Sub Conference: Journalism and Media

Dahlia Lithwick: How to Build a Culture of Empathy on the Supreme Court and Beyond


Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate and is a commentator on various national media programs such as NPR, Rachael Maddow Show, Democracy Now, etc. She has written and commented on the role of empathy in relationship to the Supreme Court, same-sex marriage and woman's issues.

There was a great deal of contention and confusion about the nature of empathy during the last Supreme Court nomination hearings. We talked about preparing now, for the next Senate discussions and debates about the role of empathy in the justice system and Supreme Court.


"When Obama talked about empathy in “The Audacity of Hope,” he was very, very clear.  He didn‘t want judges to make stuff up so that the poor guy wins.  What he said is, put yourself in the other person‘s shoes, right?  That was his mom‘s credo. When he talks about empathy, I think all he‘s saying is, just listen.  Listen to what the other side is saying.  See if there is merit to their argument.  And then think it through." 
Sub Conference: Justice and Media

Mark Honigsbaum and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy


Mark Honigsbaum is a Research Associate at the University of Zurich's Institute for Medical History and the author of 'Living With Enza'.

Mark wrote some articles about the role empathy, The Politics of Empathy and Barack Obama and the 'empathy deficit' which was published in the Guardian. We talked about his articles and views on the role of empathy in society


Mark said, "I'd be very happy to talk to you about empathy just so long as you understand that I am primarily an historian of medicine so, while I am all for promoting greater compassion and awareness of the predicament of those less fortunate than myself, I am wary of this notion of empathy as intrinsically pro-social and moral. This strikes me as a very recent notion, traceable to the birth of the psy sciences around the turn of the last century. Moreover, if alleviating the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged is to be more than a feel-good sound bite it has to be married with a real political agenda, which means making choices and taking sides (in my opinion of course)"

Sub Conference: Journalism and Media

Mary Beth Oliver: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Journalism

Mary Beth Oliver is a Penn State Professor and  co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, as well as, a member of the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies.

She is co-author of Media Effects Advances in Theory and Research.


We talked about the role of the media in fostering a culture of empathy.  Needless to say, the media is doing a lot to inhibit empathy at the moment.


Mary conducted a study titled, 'The Effect of Narrative News Format on Empathy for Stigmatized Groups'.  "The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the extent to which news story format (narrative vs. non-narrative) can initiate empathic processes that produce more favorable evaluations of stigmatized groups." The study showed that narrative stories stimulate more empathy and compassion.
Sub Conference: Journalism and Media

Peder Zane: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Journalism

Peder Zane is journalist who has worked at The News & Observer of Raleigh and The New York Times.  He teaches Mass Communication and Journalism at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh.  If we want to move our politics and culture in a positive direction, we should stop calling for civility and start practicing the lost art of empathy....Practicing empathy does not mean that we will adopt their point of view...empathy enables us to recognize their humanity... 
Sub Conference:Media

Bob Koehler: How to Build a Culture of Empathy?


Bob Koehler is a journalist: reporter, editor, writer and columnist.  He is the author of Courage Grows Strong at the Wound

How to build a culture of empathy? 
1. Use restorative justice and peace circles. 
2. Personal awareness is always crucial:
3. Be the media.
Sub Conference: Journalism and Media