Comparative Data Journalism Study of Migration Coverage

The migration coverage study plays a part in the media and migration programme of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, which notably aims at stimulating a global debate about the current state of migration coverage in the media.

First page of study summary

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With the cooperation of journalism schools and media research institutions in Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States, the project took snapshots of how the press covered migration within a four-week time frame in 2012. Overall, there was a clear focus on print newspapers and magazines as well as their websites.


Within the limits of the snapshot taken by this study.

  • The most mentioned groups include: (1) documented migrants, (2) irregular migrants, (3) other migration types lagging far behind; among these, asylum seekers and economic as the most prominent.
  • The distribution of the most salient topics per country indicates that migration predominantly tends to be viewed through the lens of the particular interest of the host country. Because of this, the media does not sufficiently treat migration as an issue that relates to an international, cross-border framework.
  • In terms of migration types and topics, there is a strong clustering around citizenship with minority, as well as around law with irregular migration. Refugees and asylum seekers in relation to human rights, or skilled and economic migrants in relation to economic considerations, do not play much of a role when it comes to media awareness.
  • Mainstream media analysed in the five countries appear to make a conscious effort to report on migration in a politically correct fashion, i.e., generally in alignment with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However many articles find a way indirectly to convey a reserved or negative value judgement by using one-sided studies or surveys as a hook for their reporting without questioning them. Others give prominence to negative or offensive quotes from politicians or random interviewees without putting them into perspective.

The findings of this migration coverage study empirically support the recommendations from editors and migration experts at the January 2013 UNAOC workshop "Covering Migration: Challenges Met and Unmet".

Publication Date:
Wed 27 Mar 2013
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