A Review of Immigration Coverage So Far, From Straight-Up Amazing Reporting to Crowdsourcing

    March on the Capitol in Washington D.C. February 4, 2017. Public domain photo by Masha George on Flickr.

    The following is part of a pop-up newsletter written by Daniela Gerson and Elizabeth Aguilera. It’s republished here with permission. You can follow along on Medium or subscribe here.

    Immigration coverage has exploded since Trump was inaugurated, with the best in the field producing extraordinary stories and new people covering the topic for the first time in innovative ways. Since it is hard to keep up, as two experienced immigration reporters*, we decided to try and highlight exceptional coverage and emerging reporting techniques to connect with multiethnic communities. This is in no way a complete list. Got a great one to add, please let us know!

    We also noticed a sudden increase in jobs and opportunities related to immigration coverage (hallelujah), so we posted a few of those too.


    Straight-up amazing reporting

    The New York Times’ Nicholas Kulish and Manny Fernandez reported starting in the early hours of the morning Saturday as the refugee and travel ban was implemented producing exemplary watchdog coverage. The link takes you to the Boston Globe because the original story was updated on the NYT website throughout the day. Kulish followed up with a first-person account of the reporting experience at JFK.

    “I spent 19 hours at that airport in all, typing on my Mac laptop, tethering my iPhone to it for a Wi-Fi signal, checking Twitter and sending encrypted messages,” he wrote. “I even broadcast a Facebook Live video. But the main tools I used were three pens, a notebook and a lot of questions.”


    Annotating context

    Various news outlets published annotated versions of Trump’s executive order. Global Nation at Public Radio International’s The World had a team of historians break it down with extensive notes and contextual links, as well as an audio interview. Vox turned to an immigration attorney. The NY Times approach was to summarize and add answers to key questions. NPR had its reporters weigh in, similar to what it did during the debates. When the executive order appeals hearings were livestreamed, many outlets featured the audio along with a live blog of running commentary.

    Global Nation at Public Radio International’s The World annotated the order.

    Fact check

    The story has been moving fast, with many personal stories, opinions and facts flying. Detroit’s Fox 2 illustrated that especially at this speed stories need to be double checked. It reported that an earlier story about a man who said his mother had died in Iraq during the ban turned out to be a lie. Snopes found that a photo that had been circulating on social media showing a little boy in handcuffs allegedly being detained at Dulles was actually from a 2015 controversy in Kentucky.

    Look to the numbers

    This piece from the Guardian looked at how more Americans, according to recent polling numbers, support Trump’s immigration executive action. Despite intense coverage of demonstrations across the globe it’s important to remember that the marchers don’t necessarily represent the majority.

    Crowdsourcing immigrants

    Various outlets posted callouts inviting immigrants to share their experiences as soon as the executive order was issued, as Poynter reported. The New York Times took a targeted approach by asking specifically about people impacted by the executive orders. LA Times request was more sweeping asking immigrants generally to share their experiences. It used responses to create a face/quote collage. (Disclosure, Daniela worked as community engagement editor at the LA Times on previous crowdsourcing projects around immigration issues, such as this one on the 2006 walkouts.) The Dallas Morning News posted a form. It did not get a huge response in terms of numbers — by Monday, they had almost 50 responses from people from 29 countries, according to Poynter — but the editor noted this approach meant that they were able to connect with dozens of immigrants from countries that they could not have connected with directly.

    Listicles live

    Gal Beckerman created a roundup of what could be lost when we ban refugees with this list of books by refugees for the New York Times Book Review. And then he took it one step further doing this Facebook live discussion about the books where people could weigh in.

    Explanatory legal writing

    What is an executive order? Can the courts block one? Dahlia Litwick and her colleagues at Slate have been breaking down the legal side of the immigration orders.

    Visualize the migration

    There were tremendous visualization of how the immigrants from banned countries are mostly educated, the 20 steps to refugee status, and what walls look like around the world.


    Ana Elena Azpurua and Dianne Solis captured three voices of Salvadoran young people who are unaccompanied minors and facing an uncertain future. The Dallas Morning News/ Al Día interactive uses illustrations as a way to illustrate their youth and also to get around the issue of not being able to photograph them (though they do shadow shots as well). This is also an example of how the Dallas Morning News is collaborating with its Spanish-language sister paper, Al Día, which earlier ran a Spanish-language version of the piece. (Azpurua is a reporter for Al Día, as is an editor who worked on the project.)

    Daniela also wrote for Mediashift on how to identify your community’s demographics and ethnic media outlets, and cultivate effective partnerships.

    Not journalists, but doing journalism?

    Remezcla noted that this Oscar-winning cinematographer did a stunning job capturing the protests. On Medium, “Sleepless in Texas,” a U.S. citizen, wrote a moving account of being separated from his wife, an Iranian green card holder. The author does not reveal his identity, so it is hard to verify, but the personal elements are beautifully done. A historian, H. Robert Baker, wrote a detailed, and opinionated, brief history of sanctuary movements for Tropics of Meta: historiography for the masses.

    Job and internship opportunities

    With all the focus on immigration has come new job opportunities in immigration reporting and policy. Here are a few:

    Daniela Gerson is an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge with a focus on community, ethnic, and participatory media. She is also a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund. Before that she was a community engagement editor at the LA Times; founding editor of a trilingual hyperlocal publication, Alhambra Source; staff immigration reporter for the New York Sun; and contributor to outlets including WNYC: New York Public Radio, The World, Der Spiegel, Financial Times and others. She wrote most recently for CNN on grandchildren of survivors, and what Kushner could teach Trump about the Holocaust. You can find her on Twitter @dhgerson

    Elizabeth Aguilera is a multimedia reporter for CALmatters covering health and social services, including immigration. Previously she reported on community health, for Southern California Public Radio. She’s also reported on immigration for the San Diego Union-Tribune, where she won a Best of the West award for her work on sex trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico; and before that she covered a variety of beats and issues for the Denver Post including urban affairs and immigration. Her latest story looked at how California’s undocumented kids could be the first to lose medical care under Trump. You can find her on Twitter @1eaguilera

    Authors’ note: We’re both based in LA, so help us out, let us know what’s going on elsewhere? And what would you like to see here? We know we are missing lots of great stories. Even as we write this so many are being published. Let us know, and we’ll share them back here!

    Tagged: executive order immigration immigration coverage muslim ban travel ban trump

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