EJI – Ethics, Journalism…and Empathy.

    April 29, 2020

    ‘Without empathy, journalism is lost.’ -Glen Scanlon

    ‘We were looking the wrong way. We had failed and were starting from scratch – trying to build relationships in the most awful circumstances.

    All great journalism is about connecting with people, telling their stories with due respect and care. Great journalism and leadership needs empathy.’

    ‘This is the first, and incredibly important, place to help set the tone of our coverage, to talk about respect for the victims, supporting our teams and ensuring they are safe. To emphasise what I expect from our senior leaders, how they work together and with our people. You can’t show empathy without taking the time to understand what others are going through.

    In these situations, leaders need to bring calm and consistency when all feels unstable.

    Leaders need to ensure people have the support and room to do their work. Forget about what other media outlets are doing. Tell your staff this too. Have the strength to focus on what your people need and the stories you are trying to tell. If you’re slipping into the habits of ‘journalism at any cost’ you, the victims and their stories all lose.

    This kind of coverage has an impact on everyone. You should be encouraging the sharing of emotion. Don’t be scared of people’s vulnerability – embrace it and your own. We took the practical step of immediately setting up counselling for staff. At times like this, trust comes from being empathetic.

    Ultimately, you need to talk about values, not just the nuts and bolts of coverage. They give shape to everything. Our mantra was clear – it’s about the people. They are us.’

    So everyday we split our resources into different groups – people are given time to build relationships and follow unique angles; some are on the daily round of important official announcements; others research deeper angles at a national level and build new material.

    “What worked really well was the relentless focus on reporters’ welfare and that constant focus on telling the stories of the victims. It was like a mantra when people were tired; tell the stories of people involved. It was simple and true and decent and right. And we all tried to follow it.”

    “For about a month we were regularly reminded to get support and sing out if we were struggling, but then people started moving on.

    “The main thing companies can do for reporters covering trauma is to foster a safe environment for open kōrero [to tell, say, speak, read, talk, address] about how they’re feeling. It’s isolating enough having to report on such an event (you return to your normal life and no one quite understands what you’re up against) so it’s important to feel like it’s safe to reach out to your colleagues, speak about your mental health and ask for help when you need it.’

    ‘A famous journalism quote says our work is about speaking truth to power. I don’t believe this is enough.

    We need to better represent the under-represented. We also need people from these communities to be encouraged into journalism.

    The current Covid-19 crisis is a perfect example. Those with the least voice will suffer the most.’

     

    Without empathy, journalism is lost

     

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