Study Reveals Shortcomings and Opportunities in U.S. Immigration Coverage

Internews supported a content analysis of more than 4,500 of the most impactful immigration stories from 2017-2020

Migratory Notes, an informed weekly guide for journalists, policymakers, lawyers, academics, advocates, and immigrants themselves, was started by Daniela Gerson and Elizabeth Aguilera in 2017 to track rapidly shifting immigration news and policy developments. The newsletter, published for more than four years, grew into an influential resource for nearly 5,000 subscribers in more than 40 states and a dozen countries.

The newsletter co-founders worked with an independent researcher and two trained assistants to analyze more than 4,500 stories selected for inclusion in the newsletter from January 2017 to August 2020. The results revealed imbalances in U.S. immigration coverage and opportunities for expanding geographic areas of coverage and topics. 

Findings and Recommendations

The research found that coverage focused on illegality and storylines where migrants lack agency, reporting overemphasized the southern U.S. border region, a relatively small group of journalists dominated immigration coverage, and national news outlets based in major media centers dominated.

Based on the findings, Internews recommends expanding geographic scope of immigration coverage, investing in partnerships between mainstream and immigrant-serving media outlets, broadening the scope of immigration coverage, and creating global knowledge-sharing networks for immigration coverage.

This lack of nuanced and robust immigration reporting only hurts U.S. communities. Without better journalism, decision makers won’t have access to the narratives needed to inform better local, federal, and international immigration policies. Investing in immigration journalism will benefit U.S. citizens and newcomers alike.

The report was written and researched by Daniela Gerson, Chi Zhang, and Elizabeth Aguilera, with research assistance from Miriam Frutos-Rodriguez and Gillian Moran-Perez