What do Humans Add to Storytelling?


Humans are storytelling creatures — some have gone so far as to say that it is storytelling that makes us human. But we’re living in a moment where our role in storytelling is shifting dramatically. Certainly, in the age of AI and clickbait, we can be relegated to passive consumers. But stories that are infused with humanity at each level — from characters to authors to readers — hold a unique power. These are the kind of stories we cherish at Hidden Compass.

Story Highlights

  • Extensive research shows that stories that immerse us in the experiences of others create a measurable increase in empathy.
  • Celebrating the humanity of a story’s author can also benefit us — not only by repairing our trust in journalists but by empowering those journalists to make a decent living and contribute meaningfully to the global conversation.
  • Shifting the role of readers from passive consumers to active participants is part of Hidden Compass’s mission — and it requires us to treat our audience like partners.

A More Empathetic World Is a More Collaborative World

Growing empirical evidence and diligent research show the direct impact of immersive narratives. This immersion — not only in place and time, but in the experiences of others — creates a measurable increase in our empathy, which is one of the main benefits of centering humans in storytelling.


Two villagers of Dhye, Nepal, sit silhouetted in a doorframe. Their community’s uncertain future is at the heart of Tulsi Rauniyar’s autumn 2022 photo feature, “The Lonely Kingdom.” Photo: Tulsi Rauniyar.

Building Trust From Human Connection

As readers, we also benefit personally from human-centered stories. Beyond the awareness of other experiences and perspectives, we can also recognize what we have in common with storytellers and characters. And allowing space for the humanity of journalists — their experiences and biases — can lead to deeper understanding. When we connect with others more deeply, we can build trust.  Trust in the media industry has declined dangerously in recent decades, creating threats to the stability of democracy around the world. So building trust in storytellers is beneficial not just for our journalists but for society at large.

Sustainable Journalism is Better Journalism

Many storytellers were drawn to journalism in order to contribute meaningfully to the global conversation. But depressingly low levels of compensation, coupled with diminished career opportunities have made it impossible for many to even chase that aspiration.

New financial models for journalism could pave the way for journalists to not only achieve  credibility and connection with their readers, but to also earn a living. Companies and audiences that recognize the human beings behind the stories may be more likely to better support storytellers financially. This is part of the experiment — and the hope — that is Hidden Compass.


The role of humans in storytelling may vary, but the stories that center humanity — in its readers, authors, and subjects — have particular benefits for all of us. These benefits include fostering a more empathetic globe, connecting readers to experiences and causes that reflect (or contrast) with their own, and allowing journalists to receive trust, recognition, and resources. As the world of media continues to shift, there will be plenty more answers to the question: What do humans add to storytelling?

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