Journalists are urged to 'meet a migrant' after research finds they are rarely quoted in stories about migration

A charity has invited British journalists to 'meet a migrant' after finding that migrants themselves are rarely quoted in stories about immigration.

Migrant Voice surveyed eight news organisations – the BBC, ITV, Sky, Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Sun and Evening Standard – between 16 January and 2 April 2014, finding that 577 articles about migrants were published. Of these, it found that 12 per cent of articles quoted a migrant.

Searching through the news outlets’ websites, it found that the Evening Standard published the most migration stories over this period (99), followed by The Guardian (94) and the Daily Mail (89).

The Times, it found, had the lowest number of migrant quotes as a proportion of overall votes, 6 per cent. And ITV and Sky had the highest proportion of migrant quotes, 17 per cent.

The charity found that politicians, academics and ”experts” are the most likely sources to be quoted in the stories.

Migrant Voice also differentiated positive and negative stories to appear in the news outlets. It found that the Daily Mail was the most likely to publish both positive and negative stories about individual migrants, but also published mostly negative stories on groups or communities of migrants.

Following the study, Migrant Voice has written to all national newspapers and broadcasters asking them to sign up to its Meet a Migrant campaign.

In a blog for Press Gazette (below), director Nazek Ramadan said: “Our letter points out that it would be unthinkable for media to write about issues specifically affecting people with disabilities, women, or gay people without interviewing those affected, and calls on editors to ensure the same is true when it comes to migrants.

"The British media are rightly known for being fearless and fair in their reporting – indeed this reputation for fair play is something migrants love about Britain, particularly those born in countries without a free press."

The 577 stories were found over the three months by searching terms such as 'migrant', 'migration', 'immigration', 'refugee' and 'asylum seeker'. 

The study concluded that the representation of migrants in the media was "lower than expected" and called on the media to "always [include] a migrant in a story about migration, such as stories relating to women, people with disabilities, etc."

The full report can be read here.

Why are migrants invisible in the British media? By Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice

Which group of people are least visible in the British media? Those with disabilities? Gay and lesbian people? The answer may in fact be migrants. 

My organisation, Migrant Voice, was set up to help migrants of all kinds speak up in public debates. Our members range from asylum seekers and refugees to immigrants working in high-powered jobs in the public and private sectors, paying tax and participating fully in British society. 

Yet, contrary to some of the myths peddled by Migrationwatch and others, migrants are very rarely asked their opinion on the matters that concen them most – unusual considering roughly 11 per cent of our population were born overseas.

This week we’ve published a short report on how often migrants are represented in the press – and the answers are revealing and a little surprising.  Over a three month period, we looked at just under six hundred news stories about topics like immigration, benefits, and working conditions for migrants  from eight of the UK’s biggest news organisations’s online platforms.  We found that migrants were quoted in just one in eight of the articles on average – and every paper or broadcaster we looked at quoted politicians, academics, or ”experts” more than migrants themselves.

When it came to reporting on individual migrants’ achievements, the Daily Mail was the news outlet most likely to publish stories showing individual migrants in a positive light.  The Mail was also most likely to publish negative stories about individual migrants – and on issues of migrants as a whole, they were also negative. 

Overall, though, none of the media we looked at were doing nearly enough to even attempt to talk to migrants.

There are some fantastic examples of migrants’ contributions to British life that feature in all of the media we researched. But when you step back and look at the overall data, it’s clear that migrants’ views are systematically invisible or ignored when it comes to most stories affecting migrants.

The debate on migration in the UK takes place largely within the media yet migrants themselves are all too often subject to a ”code of silence”.

It’s time to change that – so Migrant Voice has written to all national newspapers and broadcasters, asking staff to sign up to our new Meet a Migrant campaign.  Our letter points out that it would be unthinkable for media to write about issues specifically affecting people with disabilities, women, or gay people without interviewing those affected, and calls on editors to ensure the same is true when it comes to migrants.

The British media are rightly known for being fearless and fair in their reporting – indeed this reputation for fair play is something migrants love about Britain, particularly those born in countries without a free press.

Migrant Voice would love to help British journalists get beyond the spin and the Westminster bubble, and talk to real migrants about their lives.  To find out more, tweet @migrantvoiceuk or email us on info@migrantvoice.org.

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