Why empathy is mandatory for journalists

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

The unintentional theme of yesterday’s blog posts was empathy — why we must continually work to put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes.

While this sort of introspection is incumbent upon us all, it ought to be mandatory for journalists, whom (I think) have an additional professional responsibility to go through this mental exercise. When grassroots conservatives (and other Americans) complain about the elite media, they often have a point.

Speaking of which, yesterday, I sat down with Yahoo! News political reporter Chris Moody (listen to our full conversation). Aside from being a terrific journalist, Moody is also the son (and grandson) of a Baptist minister. This experience, I reasoned, might may make him more empathetic when it comes to understanding religious Americans.

When I asked him about it, Moody cited an alarming example of how the media’s lack of empathy can cause them to misrepresent people of faith:

“There was a Pentecostal rally outside the Capitol building several years ago, and the minister said something to the extent of — during a prayer — that he wants God to ‘slay all of Congress.’ And it was reported that he called for the death of lawmakers. And that was because of — there just wasn’t someone in the newsroom to say, ‘Well, actually, he means slay in the Spirit.’ That’s a thing that Pentecostals say, and it has nothing to do with killing anybody.”

In the past, I have argued that newspapers should hire more Christians (and people of other faiths.) Moody’s story seems to corroborate that.

Listen to streaming audio of our full conversation with Yahoo! News’ Chris Moody. And download the podcast on iTunes.