Story Seekers Media Report 2017

Research Results

Experts’ stories

28% from the 42 experts (journalists, bloggers, field workers from NGOs) we contacted replied to the Story Seekers survey, providing information on the told and “untold” stories about migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the four countries. As we targeted a low number of responses and we designed the survey more as a panel of experts online tool, the results are presented for all the four countries, together, no trends per country could be observed. The full results of the online survey are presented in the Annex 1 of this report. Here, we will summarize the main results obtained from the experts.
According to the experts, media outlets from the Nordic countries, when they talk about migrants, focus more on Syrians, muslims, and they mostly use the terms “refugees” and “asylum seekers”. At the same time, the experts consider that media choose most of the time to present the negative aspects of the late migration trend (refugee crisis), emphasizing economic negative effects, social negative aspects, and security issues. Thus, media focuses on presenting economic data, showing the costs the states (“economic burden”) have because of the phenomenon, the resources needed to support welfare for migrants, which are seen as “free riders” of the taxation system, etc. 

Moreover, experts observed that the migrants are presented as ungrateful, greedy, criminals, troublemakers, or too different in terms of culture, being considered a threat, the cause of a crisis at the national level. In addition, story of terrorism connected to Islam were identified as a trend in the media by the experts.

At the same time, when asked about the explanations that media give to the new wave of migrants, the experts identified both pushing and pulling factors explaining the migration.

Story Seekers Media Report 2017

 Under the pushing factors, they identified in the media narratives explanations in regards to the war / the civil war the refugees are trying to escape, the repressive regimes they live in, the poverty and starvation they live in their home countries, or the overcrowded refugee camps they run from. As pulling factors, the experts observed in the media explanations regarding the permissive migration laws from the destination countries, the attractive and generous welfare system of the Nordic countries, the better life from Europe, but also the crisis of European Union that makes it weaker in front of the new wave of migrants.

Figure 1
In your opinion, how much do migrants' voices contribute to the stories from the media outlets in your country? (the scale: 1 - not all TO 4 - to great extent)

The stories with the most impact for the audience, as identified by the experts, are the ones that portray refugees as unhappy and ungrateful to the destination country, and the ones in which the migrants are portrayed as causes of crimes; finally, the stories about politicians with populis speeches and who want to “close the borders” are also seen as having the greatest impact over the audience of the media outlets. Also, the most powerful stories, with greater impact, are considered by the experts to be the opinion articles and the “vicious debates” on the topic.
However, in these told stories,
the voice of the migrants is not very often heard, according to the experts. When asked “In your opinion, how much do migrants’ voices contribute to the stories from the media outlets in your country?”, most of the experts (over 60%) say that migrants are not heard at all or very little (see Figure 1). The experts consider that the stronger voice in the media is given to politicians, to citizens in general, and to experts in the field.

Experts were also asked to identify the “untold” stories from the media, thus the narratives they consider as being important to be told in regards to the new wave of migration, and which do not appear in the media outlets. We were able to group the untold stories in three categories: the benefits to the society, the aspects regarding the rights of the migrants / refugees; and the personal stories about the migrants, refugees, asylum seekers.


As benefits, experts considered that the media should also talk about migrants’ contribution to the society, through their work and expertise inputs; about the need of migrants’ expertise and workforce for the destination society; and about the educational and professional background of the migrants. In regards to migrants’ rights, the experts considered that the media should also talk about the human rights, about the rights of the asylum seekers, and the rights of the refugees, making clear to the audience what the rights are and how they differ. Experts also mentioned that the media miss the personal stories of the migrants, the stories about how they are treated in the destination countries, and about their new life and all the challenges this new life brings, such as raising children in a foreign country, finding a job, etc.

Story Seekers Media Report 2017

Experts also provide information in regarding to the role the NGOs are expected to play in the new migrants wave, especially in regards to the told narratives about migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We were able to group the experts’ opinions in four categories: the NGOs should provide more stories about the migrants they work with; the NGOs should be one of the main sources of information about migrants; the NGOs should provide the helping perspective; and the NGOs should advocate more for the migrants’ cause.


Experts consider that the NGOs should provide more stories, and add the local perspective to the European refugee crisis; also, they should tell the stories that can “complicate” the picture, that can show “differences” in immigrants whom usually are regarded as a monotone group; and they also should support immigrants to get more space in the media, to get their stories in the media, “not to be talked about, to be the one talking” (response given by one of the experts responding to the survey).


Experts also consider that the NGOs should one of the main sources of information in regards to the migration issues: they should provide solid facts from reliable sources; bring the alternative data about this issue to the public opinion via their own channels or via more open and inclusive media; pinpoint good experiences and practices; and provide “nuance”, showing a broader perspective, emphasizing what should or can be done in solving the crisis.


Also, according to the experts, the NGOs should provide the helping perspective on the migration crisis. The organizations should help the public to understand that the countries should welcome the people that need protection, and also give the “correct” picture of how the migration really affects everyone’s life. They should “provide an honest take on the refugee crisis: yes, it is costly to help people in need, and yes, we have some problems integration all nationalities into the European welfare states. Still, it is our moral duty to help other to ensure some credibility of the asylum system (that many Europeans have benefitted from earlier) and other countries in the Middle East are doing their fair share of the job” (response given by one of the experts responding to the survey).


Finally, the NGOs should advocate more for the migrants’ cause: “The role of the NGOs should be to be more critical in the media towards government’s foreign affairs policies that create war and poverty, instead of just pleading governments to send more money and resources to refugee camps, or instead of just describing the horrible conditions in refugee camps. I rarely read op-eds written by NGO workers. They are usually only interviewed by journalists. I believe NGOs should take a more active and critical role in the media” (response given by one of the experts responding to the survey).