Pie in the Sky


It would seem apt to write about the US presidential election and an easy way to write a long blog full of conjecture and opinions to fill space. However, I aim to use this blog to highlight how media attention can vary so wildly with regards to how a campaign or issue is covered.

I wanted to delve further in to how campaigns are covered and look at not only what is covered but also the content that isn’t covered.

Coverage that can’t be covered

Some other contentious topics alongside the US presidential elections such as Britain’s exit of the EU and the migrant crisis are also gold-mine’s for negative voices and positive voices. I want to look at the voices that aren’t covered.

Whilst browsing my twitter feed, I chanced upon a United Nations Refugee Agency video showing a spoken word performance by Emi Mahmoud. It was incredible and made me wonder how certain right wing or anti-refugee & immigration media outlets would view or cover it. Would they cover it?



To quote a few lines from the video:

“To go from bird watching to bird watching in Greece is to watch the world unfurl…”

“When an island becomes a door, who will answer?”

“Safe passage begins with asking the questions no one will dare to utter”

Framing this

In a recent lecture, we learnt about positive and negative media framing of campaigns (O’Brien & Kavada, 2016), which can be due to a number of factors such as state ownership, commercialisation, who owns the media and market pressures.

An example of positive coverage which helps raise awareness of the plight of refugees, in this case in Greece, from the Belfast Telegraph (2016) below:


But a story such as this, as with over coverage of the refugee crisis is still quite standard, and frequently the human aspect of missed out.

I was particularly interested to know how a newspaper might put a negative spin on this video from the UNHCR. I had a play and created a positive and negative snippet of coverage, below:

 blog-3  blog-2

(Credit to https://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp for their help in creating these clippings)

Pie in the sky

Whilst it is “pie in the sky” to ever have campaign material such as this spoken word video covered in such a way, it is interested to see how the UNHCR have chosen to broadcast this message.

In this case, it’s clear that the UN Refugee Agency haven’t released it through Twitter to be covered, as opposed to statistics or other material, but simply to give a unique angle on refugees.

This focus on the refugee crisis, as one that should have a focus on humans and individual stories rather than statistics, is one that was echoed at the launch of “Roads to Refuge” recently (http://www.roadtorefuge.com/).


It’s good to see other organisations take a different view and connect people who might have no prior understanding of the refugee crisis and be able to connect to case studies on a more human level.

These are, in my view, a strong case of organisations turning to “alternatives” to mainstream media coverage – one of Rucht’s (2004) ways that campaigners can deal with media framing – and are really powerful ways of conveying a message across to further understanding of this complex issue.



O’Brien, M & Kavada, A (2016). The news environment, representations of protest and alternative media. University of Westminster. 7th October 2016.  Available at:  https://learning.westminster.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-1770738-dt-content-rid-4463481_1/courses/7MEDS013W.1.2016/News%20media%20and%20representations%20of%20protest%202016-%20Lecture.pdf. (Accessed 15 November 2016)

Rucht, D., Nixon, P.G., Loader, B.D. and van de Donk, W. (2004) Cyberprotest: New media, citizens and social movements. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Belfast Telegraph (2016) UNHCR says up to 240 dead in wrecks off Libya. Available at: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/unhcr-says-up-to-240-dead-in-wrecks-off-libya-35185408.html (Accessed: 15 November 2016).

Further Note

*This blog has been written as part of my Media, Campaigning and Social Change MA (Part time) at the University of Westminster, for more information about this course please view: http://www.westminster.ac.uk/MACampaigning.


7 thoughts on “Pie in the Sky

  1. These engaging campaigns that “connect people who might have no prior understanding of the refugee crisis” as you well say, are definitely the most effective ones! From a human level we can feel how is to be a refugee and therefore, since we are involved, we don’t feel far from the theme. A refugee, migrant or human feel in a similar way as you do and the other way around.

    Moreover, it’s good to see this endless creativity with the examples exposed. If you would like to broaden your post with more campaigns about the refugee crisis, don’t hesitate to visit my blog https://protestwithcolorsblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/refugee-crisis-call-for-emotions/



  2. I really enjoyed these examples- there’s something very powerful about spoken-word and such poetic art forms as a way of drawing out the human dimension of things like the refugee crisis. It’s good to see more outlets using interactive media on this front. I know the BBC did a similar effort to the Road to Refuge which I found really effective – I’d love to see more of this sort of thing. It goes to show that newspaper column inches aren’t the only way to direct a public’s attention.


  3. I am amazed by the ‘Roads to Refuge’, it is definitely a powerful tool for alternative media! What an impactful way to challenge mainstream media negative framing. Did they only spread it via Twitter?


  4. A very powerful post. Like you say, the example, does not defy facts and figuers, but it shows personal stories. And with Emi Mahmoud it is a story of success and empowerment. One that showcases that a migrant/refugee is not just a victim, but a person with many facets.


  5. I really like the approach in this post of also taking into account what isn’t covered. This might seem a bit off-topic or far-fetched but what came to my mind as soon as I read your intro is Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis. It is a method to analyse a societal discourse by focussing on power relationships that are expressed in texts (written or verbal), as far as I remember. What is interesting is that it does not only provide the possibility to scrutinise what is said, but also what isn’t, thus what is left out. Might be worth a second look if you are interested in that.


  6. I took their journey and it left me speechless. It’s extremely moving to see step by step what these people had to face in their life.
    This also reminds me of a documentary I saw recently, “Fire at sea” by Gianfranco Rosi.
    It’s impressive how personal stories can change the way we look at a humanitarian/social/economic or political issue. Even tragedies become less meaningful, less resonant when they are illustrated only with figures. As campaigners or future campaigners, we should always keep in mind the power of empathy, sympathy, and feelings to raise awareness and push people to take action. Numbers are easy to forget, stories aren’t.


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