I’ve started a new Twitter project called The Art of Loving, based on the work The Art of Loving by psychoanalyst Eric Fromm. He wrote this book back in 1956. His poignant observations about love in our western culture are still relevant today, and merit attention and discussion.
Fromm makes a passionate plea for us to wake up and examine how it is we love others in our lives. And he’s not just talking about romantic love. He uses the term love to encompass all facets of how we love others. Fromm ultimately urges us to make loving an art, and like any art, he argues we must learn to study love, gain self-knowledge and practice discipline, concentration and patience in love so that we may lead fulfilling lives.
I will be posting daily Tweets of quotes from his work as I read it from beginning to end. I hope to share his piercing observations with you and to inspire others to ask themselves questions about how they love others in our world and manifest their love of life.
How is this related to journalism?
My journalistic career has been founded on the belief that one must know herself or himself well in order to tell the stories of the people in our communities. Through knowing ourselves, we develop understanding and compassion, which in turn can be shared with others. This self-knowledge helps you to understand the actions of others. The journalists whom I admire and have worked with throughout my career are a testament to this belief. They inspire me. But not all journalists inspire me, to be sure.
Compassionate and understanding journalists ask good questions of others and keep their curiosity alive. A compassionate journalist listens attentively to the people he or she interviews and treats people’s stories with respect. No matter the person’s position in our society, be they politician or everyday citizen, a person deserves fair compassionate treatment from journalists. This isn’t to say, however, that journalists won’t ask tough questions or won’t be critical thinkers. It’s part of our job, but it can be done with compassion. I certainly wouldn’t spill my deepest emotions and thoughts about a tragedy in my life to a journalist who lacks compassion.
A Compassionate Journalist? Hah!
This image of the compassionate journalist likely flies in the face of the public’s perception of journalists. In fact, American studies on public perception of journalism show people often don’t trust journalists at all. What went wrong? It’s the eternal question we ask ourselves in the profession. It prompted authors and journalists Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach to research the crisis in journalism and to publish the seminal work The Elements of Journalism (2001, 2007). Compassion is not addressed in the book.
Futhermore, journalism education is, for the most part, silent on this topic of developing compassion or self-knowledge in our reporting. Perhaps a guest speaker or two will mention it during a presentation to journalism students, but it’s missing from the curriculum. We are taught to pride ourselves on being diggers of information, on being hard-nosed journalists “who get the story.” Our history is one of a rough-and-tumble profession that prides itself on tales of reporters who sip booze from flasks hidden in their desks.
With this Twitter project, I hope to encourage my students and others to examine the role of self-knowledge and the development of compassion in their professional formation.
Follow along—Hashtag #AofL
You can follow my postings by using the hashtag #AofL. I look forward to others’ comments and observations related to Fromm’s ideas.