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. 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.
Blank-Libra's work locates the point
at which the vast, multidisciplinary research on empathy intersects with
the work of the journalist, revealing a reality that has always been so:
journalists practice empathy as a way to connect but also as a form of
inquiry, as sincere and legitimate in its goals and aspirations as is
1. Introduction: Toward an Integrated Practice
2. An Expanding Philosophy
3. A Theoretical Examination of Empathy and Compassion
4. Objectivity: A Timeworn Antipathy to Empathy
5. Against Compassion: A Quagmire for Journalists
6. Historically Intertwined: The Narrative and Empathy
and the American Indian
and the Fervor of War
the Turn of the Century
Century Journalism and John Hersey
Journalists Insist on Progress
7. The Empathetic Journalist in the 21st Century
Stories: The Tangible Difference an Ethic of Empathy Can Make
Twenty-First Century Journalist: Employing an Ethic of Empathy
with the Particulars: Disarming Stereotypes and Dissolving Distance
with the Inner Life
8. A Model for Cultivating a Life of Empathy and Compassion
9. Research and Reflection: Fueling Empathy
10. The Moral Imagination: Reclaiming the Call
11. Cultivating Ethical Relationships
12. Empathetic Listening as a Journalistic Discipline
13. For the Good of the Soul
Papers and Articles
Empathy compels fair treatment of sources
Janet Blank-Libra Blog
"Marc Ian Barasch, author of Field Notes on the Compassionate Life,
defines empathy as "our ability to feel and perceive from another's point
of view." At the Jaipur Literary Festival in India in January 2011, David
Finkel, Washington Post reporter and author of The Good Soldiers, told a
rapt audience that he was obligated to be empathetic not only with the
soldiers in Iraq but also with the policy makers in Washington, D.C.,
including then President George W. Bush. He noted that it might be more
difficult to summon empathy for Bush than for the soldiers but that it was
no less important that he do so. In saying this, he acknowledged the most
basic precursor for empathy: recognition of human equality, no matter the
differences, and no matter one's personal perspective. "It's impossible,"
he said, "not to have empathy for American troops and Iraqis." It is more
difficult, he said, to have empathy for those making policy in D.C. - but
"you have to." Somehow, one has to "keep empathy for all the players.""
Empathize to Understand, Not to Agree
Janet Blank-Libra Blog
"Every day, reporters cross, or should, the boundaries that exist between
self and Other.
Once a person navigates that transition, his or her world expands, and in
the newly created space, the self comes to know better the potential of
its humanity. At times, though, we may find the act of empathy repulsive.
We may want to retreat, not reach out."
Journalism: Accepting the necessity of an ethic of empathy
Janet Blank-Libra Blog
"But journalism, despite itself, is evolving, as is a multidisciplinary
theory of empathy, one that contains elements and principles essential to
good journalism. In the past few decades, a body of journalists has become
the moral compass of an institution deeply in need of one: the press.
These individuals reflect in their work an ethic of empathy and a respect
for the principle that grounds any democratic system: the life, liberty,
and happiness of the many must be protected. "
Augustana Journalism Students Speak at National College
November 29, 2017
"Journalism professor Dr. Janet Blank-Libra says there is an apparent
disconnect between empathy and objectivity in the news media - and many
journalists intentionally eschew empathy in an attempt to remain unbiased.
It has even come to be seen as taboo in the media. Four Augustana
students, however, are bringing the discussion of empathy into the light
and are encouraging more journalists to use it to bring greater truth into
"I think using empathy in journalism is something that not enough people
are talking - or even thinking - about, even though a lot of famous
reporters are empathic," said Sophie Geister-Jones '18.
They presented their own panel discussion, entitled "Reporting on the
Vulnerable: Empathy as a Form of Inquiry," at the National
College Media Convention in Dallas, Texas, in October. Geister-Jones,
Jessica Ruf '19, Jacob Knutson '19, and Taylor Olson '18 presented the
talk, which they began developing this summer."
My book: Pursuing an Ethic of Empathy in Journalism
"When I started my book several years ago, I wanted to explore and
think about the way journalists do their work in a world within which
people are so often at odds. Journalists are trained to be objective, but
the best of them bring to their work an ethic of empathy that allows for a
more expansive route to understanding. The topic of empathy has not always
been a political one.
Today, it is. In January 2018 the president of the United States called
Haiti and the countries of Africa shit-holes. His racism, something he
either deliberately or unwittingly reveals on a regular basis, precludes
the possibility of his practicing empathy. It is more important than ever
that we find ways to understand one another, that we see comments such as
the president's for what they are.
Empathy remains a largely unexplored possibility-in any deliberate
sense-for reconciliation among people of different faiths, cultures,
countries, races, socioeconomic groups, sexual orientations, political
affiliations and more.
Rather than dismiss empathy's possibilities, we need to entertain the
possibility that empathy is an expansive way of being in the world that
promotes depth of humanity and and depth of understanding."
Compassion is not journalism's downfall, it's journalism's
BY JANET BLANK-LIBRA
OCTOBER 26, 2012
"It's time to surrender: Journalism education should incorporate the study
of empathy and compassion alongside its study of the objective method. The
objective reporter who integrates into his or her work an empathetic,
compassionate approach does not face irreconcilable demands. The
compassionate act, one that seeks to alleviate suffering, often follows a
process that starts with empathy, i.e., the moment within which one
connects with the other in an effort to see through his or her eyes, to
know something through its meaning for that person.
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. For the journalist compelled by a
moral compass, the writer who seeks justice in the world, empathy can make
visible the lives of those who are marginalized and misunderstood and in
so doing transform the act of reporting into an act of compassion."