4. Empathy Engines
Plus the usual links and such.
Think beyond you.
There are two creators — comics writer Leah Williams and Sex Education showrunner Laurie Nunn — whose work has sat with me lately. Both are empathic.
Williams has talked openly about using what she calls ‘empathy engines’ in her work. Basically, she wants you to feel for the characters she’s writing, even if the character is a villain or unlikeable for whatever reason. (Google Daken and then read her X-Factor run and you’ll see how far this approach can go.)
In Nunn’s case, all three seasons of Sex Education are empathic to every character on the show and accepting of everyone in the Mooredale universe. Season 3 does this brilliantly with Ruby (played by Mimi Keene), adding depth to a character that it would have been very easy to write off as a trope. (No spoilers, but give that show a watch. Ted Lasso is another show that goes all-in on empathy in a good way.)
Sometimes, at least in the writing I do that is more covering events and games and people, I don’t always know if empathy can be limitless. Like, if someone misses a key shot or misses a block or whatever, it has to be called like it is. And for the people in power in organizations (particularly the very rich people owning teams who have very aggressive PR people working on their behalf), I’m less likely to cut them slack. I don’t have empathy for bullies.
But I think more empathy in sports writing would be good. I think trying to write features that are empathic would be good. More of that, less sourced bullshit that parrots agency talking points or little nuggets of "news" that are great for Twitter engagement.
Some of that requires access, which may ever be where it really needs to be for me or any other reporter to get a real rapport with an athlete. But it’s probably worth shooting for more often than not.
This week’s work
Go pick up the new issue of Cleveland Magazine — I’ve got a full page in there previewing the Browns’ season.
Various Locked on Cavs eps up, including a two-part live show Evan and I did.
Worth a look
Really good NYT story on Joe Manchin throw the prism of his climate policy and connections to fossil fuels.
Another from the Times: Afghan Female Soccer Players Find a Home in Italy
Loved this feature on Blue Moon ice cream. If you know, you know.
It’s from a little bit ago, but finally got around to reading this Robert Mays joint on Fangio/Staley defense. Mays never misses.
Jessica Contrera with a prime example of empathy guiding reporting.
Erling Haaland FOREVER. I don’t have fun watching any athlete than him right now.