You may have seen the numbers by now: there are currently 21.3 million refugees worldwide. Those who come to America have complex stories and belong to communities that are shaping the country’s future.
But if you’re a reporter or editor, how do you tell those stories? Some media professionals may be at a loss when it comes to reporting on these relevant issues for various reasons. Maybe some don’t know how to delve into refugee stories and report on them in relevant ways. Or they might not know what refugee communities exist in their area and how to find them.
As API’s 2017 summer fellow, I am working on a project to help connect newsrooms with refugee communities in their area. As part of my fellowship, I will publish a resource to help newsrooms identify refugee populations in their areas and learn how to effectively cover and serve them. Through the project, I hope to help establish and/or bolster relationships between newsrooms and refugee populations, making refugee groups and issues more visible to the public.
I’m currently a graduate student and graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I became interested in serving refugee populations through my work with Mosaic, a capstone class that covers émigré issues in Lincoln. A Mosaic project I contributed to last semester as a reporter and copyeditor, “Spice of Life,” received an award of merit from the 2017 Eric Sevareid Awards.
Through Mosaic, I learned about Lincoln’s history as a refugee resettlement community. Nebraska resettled more refugees per capita than any other state in 2016, according to a Pew Research Center data analysis. Lincoln alone is home to refugees from more than 40 countries and has the largest Yazidi population in the United States. Many Lincolnites I know have welcomed new Americans and embrace the changes they bring to the community.
But I can’t say the situation is entirely rosy, either.
Refugees in Nebraska have also faced harassment and exclusion, especially in the past year. In a 2016 town hall meeting about plans to build a plant in Nickerson, Nebraska, one concern citizens voiced was that it would bring in minorities. The village board unanimously voted against the proposal. Being from a rural Nebraska town myself, I know people like this who are well-intentioned but hold unfounded fears about refugees.
This tension between Nebraska’s growing refugee populations and the misconceptions about them — a microcosm of what is happening on a global scale — is the driving force for my project. I hope it will help deliver a more complete and accurate picture of refugee populations by enabling newsrooms to incorporate refugee issues into their editorial strategies.
As refugee populations continue to grow, I want those who live in places like Nickerson to see beyond misinformed stereotypes and start seeing a more complete picture about the refugee experience in America.
If you’re interested in or have ideas about Emily’s topic, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Twitter at @emilycase33. If you’re interested in API’s summer fellowship for 2018, you can learn more about the program here and sign up to be notified when applications open.
Emily Case is a graduate student at the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications studying professional journalism. She also works as a graduate assistant for the college teaching visual communication classes. Emily’s main areas of interest are storytelling innovations, community journalism and minority issues coverage. Originally from Gibbon, Nebraska, she graduated from Hastings College in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in visual media.