Even when journalism is accurate, ethical and neutral, it is important to recognise that there is a power imbalance between the journalist and people in the news. That is especially the case when media report about people who may be experiencing a situation of vulnerability.
This is something worth considering. Journalists have the power to influence opinions, to bring light and awareness to a specific situation, but they can also worsen someone’s conditions, or jeopardise their well-being, if they are not careful.
The other aspect where the power imbalance is visible relates to access. It may not be difficult for journalists to get access to a refugee camp, to find refugees who are willing to talk, but how about the other way? How easy, or difficult, is it for refugees and migrants themselves to reach out to the media to have their story told?
During the Refugees Reporting project, representatives of refugees and migrant groups were very clear about the limitations of their engagements. While media would occasionally reach out to them to ask for a quote or comment, it was much harder for them to get the attention of the media, to have a specific story or an event covered, for example.
There may also be a lack of expertise on the part of refugees and migrants to reach out to and talk to media. There may be a lack of understanding of the needs of media. What are the stories that work best? Which angle should I pitch? Who can I reach out to? These are all valid questions, and their answers may not be so easy to come by.