Rethinking the media refugee crisis media coverage: what do readers and refugees want to see?
What would the coverage of the refugee crisis look like if refugees and readers were to decide how to do it? What terms would be used, what angles would be covered, what questions would be asked? That is exactly what us, at The 19 Million Project, decided to find out during a brainstorming session at the 6 Degrees conference in Toronto, where issues of inclusion, global citizenship and migration were discussed.
For over a year now, the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean has been on the media’s radar. Making headlines and front pages of newspapers at times, occupying smaller spaces at others, the narrative of the largest migration since World War 2 is many times negative, stigmatizing towards refugees and alarming for receiving populations. The reasons that forced people to flee, the conditions in which they left their homes have been left out of the story, portraying an incomplete scenario.
To change the narrative, we decided to look for new ideas in new places. Readers and global citizens as well as refugees or newcomers rarely have the chance to say what they would like to see in the media coverage. How would they approach the news if they got to decide? To find out, we invited them to participate in an ideation sprint and reflect on how they feel about migration. Our idea was to frame the refugee crisis as multiple human journeys; each with their own trajectories, motivations and outcomes.
The session started out with a reflection on everyone’s personal migration stories. The audience was invited to think about their families’ journeys, their own journeys, and on their feelings regarding the news over the last year. Finally, they were asked “how do you feel about migration?” After identifying their feeling, they were asked to represent it with a color. Five ribbons – green, blue, yellow, purple, red, white – were attached to the center stage, and people were asked to gather around them, sharing why they were choosing that color. Luisa guided the audience through this reflection and asked them to share why they chose the color they did. Hope, anger, empathy, pain, sad, and purple “the way I feel when I think about my country”.
To remind the audience of the focus of the session, we screened a video which comprised powerful images of migrants trying to reach Europe by land or sea, headlines that contained works like invasion, swarm, the worst; xenophobic comments amid the Brexit campaign; images of Aylan Kurdi; and also some good examples that gave a glimpse of hope in journalism. People were moved by the video, emotions were high. A small pause to breathe, and then, the ideation began.
Participants were asked to form groups, as Gabrielle introduced them to the ideation process: choose a problem to solve, phrase it as a “how might we question:
- Allow people to get to know migrants beyond the prejudice
- We don’t hear about the millions of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan.
- Create positive narratives about migration and human journeys
In the next ideation round people came up with ideas on how to solve their How Might We questions. Lots of them! People started thinking and rethinking the refugee crisis, with their feelings about migration and the media coverage in mind, post-it notes piled up as they wrote them down. A second round then came, to further the brainstorming.
Enthusiastically, groups shared and debated what they came up with. Minutes later, a wall was covered with ideas ranging from more hummus cafes, to soap opera of refugee stories, “eat like a refugee” VR experiences, don’t listen to the media, think of success stories, Disney cartoon who is a migrant, Pilgrimages, Good News Newspaper, Translator chips for brains, Journeys of Life, Nomadic Traditions, Sharing Culture, Video Games, Analogy with the migration of geese, “Carry your own bedroom for a week”. All amazing, out of the box ideas ready for prototypes to be developed!
And then, on to the newcomers. Mustafa, Asmaa, Mounir and Nova joined Belén on stage to share their own views of the refugee crisis coverage. They told their own stories, what their migration journeys were like and why they were triggered, how they felt about the “refugee” label, what they thought about the media coverage, and finally what they would like to see in the media coverage of the refugee flow. Putting a face, a name and a favorite animal to the often anonymous refugee stories helped the audience understand that there is not just one story to tell. There are many stories, that can and should be told in new ways, and where refugees should have a say.
The session came to an end as Gaby, who was behind cameras documenting the session for posterity (or social media), took the stage to remind everyone to share their experiences online with the hashtag #HumanJourney and to thank everyone who helped this session come about.
We would like to thank Alain Pescador and his 6 Degrees Team for their support and their trust, to Mariana Santos for believing in us, to every member of the 19 Million Team who helped to make things happen on site -Naddeo, Rafa, Keith (honorary 19MM)-, or online -Ruso, Angeliki, Anna, to the amazing Bruce Cahan from the Stanford Migrant Storytelling Lab and Santos Lázzeri and his team from Los Olvidados for saving the day with the video.
Gracias, Thank you, Merci, Shukran, Mamnuun!
#Human Journey’s Team: Belén Arce, Gabriela Brenes, Gabrielle Fulco and Luisa Ortiz