5 good reads related to the intersection of media, empathy, and resilience

Over the past week, we’ve come across some interesting stories that look at how empathy and resilience play into storytelling.

Many of them relate to Images & Voices of Hope’s work around Restorative Narrative — stories that show how people and communities are making a meaningful progression from a place of despair to a place of resilience.

Here are our top five picks…


“Compassion is Not Journalism’s Downfall, it’s Journalism’s Salvation”: In this Poynter.org story, journalism educator Janet Blank-Libra takes an important look at compassion’s role in reporting and storytelling. Some journalists try not to show compassion for fear of seeming biased. In reality, though, compassion can actually lead to more balanced reporting. Blank-Libra argues:

“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.”


“How to Make People Care About Climate Change? Tell It One Story At A Time”: In this interesting Q&A, Christine Cordero explains how she’s trying to improve the ways that environmental stories are told.

“During the buildup to the climate march, we saw the big greens shift from polar bears and science experts to people who are being directly affected by climate change who were also at the forefront of change. We began to see ourselves as the characters of a story where we have mismanaged the land and our labor to get to where we are. This economy is at the root of it, and climate is just the biggest symptom that is showing,” Cordero said.

“The stories we’ve been really excited about have been Just Transition stories. There is a whole movement that is primarily among people who have been in environmental justice and now see it as climate justice work. There’s the Climate Justice Alliance, which is about 35 frontline groups who got together and said, ‘Sure, our officials and politicians should be working on this, but we are on the front lines and we need to build our own economic resiliency. The economy is about how we manage our home — the land, the air, the water, food – but also the resource of our human labor.'”


“After Sandy, Katrina, and Sept. 11, This Sculptor Finds Art in Survival”: This NPR story features the work of sculptor Christopher Saucedo, who was personally affected by three major tragedies. He has turned to art to illustrate his experiences with these tragedies and to tell stories of survival. NPR reports: “After Sandy, the Red Cross went through Saucedo’s neighborhood and gave everyone bleach, a bucket, gloves and blankets. Saucedo decided to use the blankets as the backdrop for new works of art: He’s using them to embroider tapestries. ‘If you have lemons, make lemonade,’ he said. “‘I had Red Cross blankets; I made some tapestries.'” … “He hopes his art helps people relate to his own experience and, more generally, what it means to lose and how we manage to survive.”


“What Hurricane Katrina Taught Us About Post-Traumatic Growth”: This Washington Post piece points out that “Americans love stories of resilience, stories of people who somehow find the inner strength to not merely survive or bounce back from devastating trauma, but to thrive, flourish and ‘bounce forward,’ as some psychologists describe the phenomenon. Who hasn’t heard Nietzsche’s dictum ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger?'” But for as much as it’s celebrated, resilience is also complicated. “The questions of who can overcome, who cannot, and why, have no simple answers, though many researchers have been tackling them in recent years.” The article, which is well worth the read, peels back some of these layers of complication.


Rising Strong: Brené Brown on the Physics of Vulnerability and What Resilient People Have in Common”: This BrainPickings piece by Maria Popova features Brown’s new book, “Rising Strong,” which looks at the emotional patterns and character qualities that “enable people to transcend the catastrophes of life, from personal heartbreak to professional collapse, and emerge not only unbroken but more whole.”

Popova writes: “Brown says we live in ‘a Gilded Age of Failure,’ where we fetishize recovery stories for their redemptive ending, glossing over the large swaths of darkness and struggle preceding it.”

This quote gets at the heart of one of our core beliefs around Restorative Narrative: these narratives can’t focus solely on recovery, and they can’t gloss over difficult truths; they need to show the emotional journey that an individual took to move from a place of despair to a place of resilience.

“Embracing failure without acknowledging the real hurt and fear that it can cause, or the complex journey that underlies rising strong, is gold-plating grit,” Brown says. “To strip failure of its real emotional consequences is to scrub the concepts of grit and resilience of the very qualities that make them both so important — toughness, doggedness, and perseverance.”


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