Compassion fuels collaboration, innovation in distanced newsrooms

May 26, 2020 11:00

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed newsrooms into social distancing. It is transforming living rooms into sets and basements into production spaces. Reporters are going live and producing stories from home. Meteorologists have turned their residences into makeshift weather centers. Some photographers have created their own at-distance microphones.
As a former news director turned happiness scholar, I treasure that it has shown us the value of compassion. It is significant that news teams are serving the public, and also taking care of themselves and others by staying at home.
It is crucial to continue to spread compassion at work in newsrooms during the pandemic and after.  
Compassion at work is not simply a great headline. Research supports it.
Monica Worline and Jane E. Dutton are the leading scholars of compassion at work. In their research, they share how awakening compassion at work can alleviate suffering in an organization. It can also fuel a strategic competitive advantage for a company.

Compassion contributes to creative ideas and innovation by fostering psychological safety. Worline and Dutton explain, “Empathy equips innovation teams with ideas for products and services that alleviate suffering, expanding the organization’s effectiveness and customer base.”
Compassion can also contribute to recruiting and retaining talent. Building compassion helps cultivate a work environment that builds commitment, which helps fill a newsroom with talented people who want to stay.
It can also fuel collaboration by developing respect and trust that increases team members’ readiness to work together.
In my research, journalists have shared how meaningful their work is in news because of having a strong sense of belonging, working in a group and team dynamic. They also expressed how much they valued working in a newsroom environment. Feeling this sense of belonging can come from compassion in the workplace.
Compassion at work breaks silence. In the fast-paced world of journalism, compassionate news leaders must make noise about well-being at work and how necessary it is to battle burnout.
RTDNA has stressed the importance of compassion in this beating burnout in a distanced newsroom infographic, which shared the value of making sure your team is taking time off and setting up care committees to celebrate your newsroom.
How can you continue to express compassion at work during and after the pandemic? Here are five simple strategies.
  1. Self-Compassion. It starts with you. As a compassionate news leader, you must start with yourself. Begin with positive activities such as giving compliments to yourself, forgiving yourself and understanding your strengths as a leader.
  1. Create innovative ways to bring the newsroom home. Have meaningful conversations with your team by leveraging technology. Create a quick video with a positive message to members of your team to share something they did well. This will be a meaningful surprise for them.
  1. Savor positive moments and pitch a different story. Create an opportunity to focus on positive stories that are happening internally in your news operation. This is an opportunity for members of your news team to share great things that are happening in and out of the newsroom. In positive psychology “savoring” is a concept of being mindfully engaged in positive events. It is about appreciating positive experiences.
  1. Focus on well-being in your newsroom. This approach will help you gain a general awareness by observing your team, meetings, one-on-one conversations and other forms of feedback.
  1. Empower employees to ask for time off. Research suggest that remote workers are far more productive and work longer hours than their office-based counterparts.  
Yes, COVID-19 has pushed news operations. Yet, it has pulled the news industry together differently. It is a reminder of the key strength in newsrooms, which is collaboration. It must be qualified. It is vital to “collaborate compassionately,” one concept that must continue to spread.
Dr. Kortni Alston is a former News Director turned Happiness Scholar, Consultant, and Professor. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communication. Dr. Alston has an MBA and worked as a news director in Baltimore. She has also worked as a TV reporter in Houston, Philadelphia, Youngstown, Ohio. You can follow her via Twitter @DrKortniAlston. To learn more about well-being at work visit her website at:


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