Rapid change and institutional failure drive media coverage

REMINDER researchers found that rapid change was invariably considered a ‘good story’ by journalists – and therefore worthy of reporting – as were perceived failures of government.

Unsurprisingly then, inflows of migrants, coupled with concepts of a ‘lack of control’, were generally themes that journalists felt merited reporting across all of the sampled countries (Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Slovenia and the UK). For instance, the failure of the EU and national governments to find sustainable and agreed solutions to the mass movement of asylum seekers through the continent in and after 2015 appears to be a primary catalyst for the negative reporting about migration that followed.

Equally, the rapid growth of the UK’s population of EU nationals following the expansion of the bloc in 2004 and 2007 was a real and visible change to the UK. Journalists regularly highlighted a lack of effective responses by the UK government or the EU to show either that this was a managed process or that it could be controlled.

These two factors – rapid change and institutional failure — often seemed better predictors of journalists’ engagement with the topic of migration than actual migrant numbers.

Why would changes matter?

What are the 'hard facts' about numbers of migrants?