There is a really interesting article I found on the website Journalism.co.uk about how the media is covering the Syrian refugee crisis. In the article, journalist Lindsey Hilsum talked about how she portrayed the Syrian refugee crisis, which involved making the story more personal by collecting the accounts of the long journey of several refugees, rather than reporting on the masses of refugees and their effect on the country they are taking shelter in. Hilsum had a lot of negative comments directed toward from people who claimed that she was “softening” the story by interviewing mainly women and children. Hilsum claimed “I never received as much online abuse”.
While some have criticized Hilsum’s work, others have seen the necessity in a more humanitarian perspective to the issue. The picture of a Syrian toddler washing up on a popular beach in Turkey, taken by Hilsum’s photographer William Wintercross, captured the attention of many on social media.
When Wintercross was asked why this image became so popular, he explained “This was a beach where European tourists go and anybody could have gone there, so it was no longer an unpronounceable name. Suddenly, there was a personal connection made, which hadn’t happened prior to that, and it made people sit up and listen.” As the old saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words.
This picture and the refugee accounts collected by Hilsum shows that the Syrian Refugee crisis is so much more than the statistics and facts reported by large media stations. The refugee crisis is about people, all which have their own unique tale of how they got to Europe, a tale filled with fear and tragedy.
The work of Hilsum and Wintercross is important because it is easy to say you are against taking in refugees when they are portrayed as a statistic that has a negative impact on the economy. As Alibhai Brown, another journalist interviewed in the article, claims “Newspapers sometimes dehumanize these stories and make migrants, as a whole, into this unnamed threat.” It is much easier to think critically about this issue when you hear about and see what tragedy these people have gone through and see what they have lost in their quest for a brighter future.
If you Google search “Refugee Crisis Europe, the first images you come across will be pictures like this:
But if you scroll down a little, you will see pictures, you will see this:
Digital reporting has given this controversial issue a new angle, helping to defend those accused and helping challenge the reporting of powerful media stations.