What can be done to improve media coverage of international migration in the Americas? More than 50 journalists, specialists, and NGO representatives met in 2011, in Austin, TX, to discuss this issue. The highlights of their discussion is now available in a digital booklet by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, "Media Coverage of Migration in the Americas," which can be downloaded in Spanish and English.
Migration is more complicated than it seems, and its coverage is usually superficial, said participants in the 9th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas, that took place between Sept. 20 and 22, 2011. To understand and cover migration in the Americas adequately, education, balance, and objective journalism are needed, they concluded.
The booklet contains suggestions of more journalistic collaboration across countries and recommendations for a more humane and balanced portrayal of the migration phenomenon, going beyond the statistics and anecdotes of people crossing borders with or without papers.
The Forum participants suggested that more stories need to be written about the migrants themselves, their families, historical explanations for migration, investigations into government policies, health issues, economic and social factors, education, housing and myriad other components that comprise migration. In short, media coverage needs to explain that migration has an important, if not crucial, effect on the daily life of almost everyone in the Americas.
"We tend to criminalize migrants due to the mere fact that they decided to come into this country to
look for work with no documents and we classify them as illegal aliens before knowing the facts,’’ said journalist Cecília Alvear, former news producer for the NBC network and representative of UNITY, an organization made by journalists from minority ethnic groups.
“The current immigration climate is polarized to the extent that there is no dialogue,” said Maria Sacchetti, reporter for the Boston Globe.
The book is not only about millions of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants that live in the U.S., but also about various migration flows among and within Latin American countries.
Argentina, for example, has a large number of Paraguayan and Bolivian migrants, and Paraguay has many Brazilians. In Colombia, according to journalist Maria Teresa Ronderos, “there are 4 million people ... who have been forced to migrate, either internally or externally."
Another subject widely discussed in the book is the plight of Central Americans who try to cross Mexico to enter the U.S., and become victims of extortion and violence by criminals who are sometimes state officials.
Journalist José Luis Sierra, collaborating publisher for New America Media, and guideline editor for Spanish news channel Mundo Fox, wrote the 30-page book "Media Coverage of Migration in the Americas."
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, as well as the Media and Latin America programs of the Open Society Foundation, conducted the 9th Austin Forum. The booklet's PDF file of the meeting's report can be downloaded in Spanish and English.
The Knight Center also has other booklets available for download in its digital library, including Ethical Guidelines for Online Journalism, 10 Best Practices for Social Media, Digital Tools for Journalists, Coverage of Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in Latin America and the Caribbean and many more. Most publications are available in multiple languages. All are free to download.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.