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ivoh | January 17, 2018

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Krista Tippett: Compassion in news ‘too often comes in the form of feel-good feature stories’

Krista Tippett: Compassion in news ‘too often comes in the form of feel-good feature stories’

Krista Tippett | Screengrab from YouTube

NPR’s “Just a Little Nicer” series recently featured media practitioners who have compelling ideas about empathy and compassion.

Guy Raz’s interview with Krista Tippett, host of the radio show “On Being,” was especially interesting. Raz drew upon Tippett’s 2010 TED Talk about compassion and asked her some follow-up questions about what it means to be compassionate in the media. In both her TED talk and her interview with Raz, Tippett offers up sound advice for media professionals, and alludes to why it’s so important to cultivate compassion when interviewing people and telling stories.

“Compassion, from my vantage point, has a problem. As essential as it is across our traditions, as real as so many of us know it to be in particular lives, the word compassion is hollowed out in our culture and it is suspect in my field of journalism. It’s seen as a kind of squishy kumbaya thing. Or it’s seen as potentially depressing,” Tippett says. “Compassion when it enters the news too often comes in the form of feel-good feature stories or side bars about heroic people you could never be like, or happy endings, or examples of self sacrifice that would seem to be too good to be true most of the time. Our cultural imagination about compassion has been deadened by idealistic images.”

She went on to say:

“Compassion is a core virtue that has within it a lot of the other virtues that either contains them or contributes to them so that it’s a really central lens on what it looks like to lead a worthy life with gracefulness and purposefulness and a sense of meaning. Listening is a hugely powerful form of attention; it’s presence. And if you are really listening, you are genuinely curious and you are open to being surprised and changed by what comes back at you. … Compassion is not necessarily about agreeing with somebody else. It’s not even necessarily about liking them. Is is about making a choice to honor their humanity.

“Our culture is obsessed with perfection and with hiding problems. But what a liberating thing to realize that our problems, in fact, are probably our richest sources for rising to this ultimate virtue of compassion, towards bringing compassion towards the suffering and joys of others.”

You can listen to the full interview and hear Tippett’s TED talk here.