Journalists Who Are Humble, Empathetic & Curious Less Likely to Be Wrong

In a recent phone interview, Kathryn Schulz, author of the new book, “Being Wrong,” said that being humble, empathetic and curious can reduce the likelihood journalists will make mistakes.

Humility, Schulz said, can be easy to lose sight of when we develop a beat and become niche experts.

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“That’s sort of your job to share your whole-hearted knowledge with the world, but of course we don’t know everything,” she said. “It’s that sense of humility that I think drives the best journalists to question themselves and work harder and really try to round out the story.”

When we’re empathetic, we’re reminded that our way of seeing the world might be different from how others see it. If we don’t take the time to hear other people’s viewpoints and experiences, we run a greater risk of getting information wrong.

“I think that journalists are well-served by having a real genuine interest in and empathy for divergent view points and people who don’t echo their own belief systems,” Schulz said. “I think it’s totally crucial to good journalism.”

The more convinced we are that we know the story we’re about to report on, she noted, the less we’re going to try figuring out what the story is really about. Curiosity, then, becomes that much more important because it forces us to ask questions that lead to deeper meaning.

“One of the great things about being wrong is that it immediately shows us that we didn’t see the right story and there’s another one,” Schulz said. “That experience of being wrong is one of surprise, and it can and should fuel curiosity.”

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