The Ambivalence of the ‘I’-Observer in Long-Form Journalism on Migration Crises

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Explaining migration is a complex task. The term presents itself as a continually contested and reinvented concept, contingent upon the multiple contexts where the discussion unfolds (Moore, 2015). On the one hand, (migration) representation and the media have always been entangled with power relationships (Ponzanesi, 2020). Conversely, the latter tends to produce digestible versions of the social reality (Palau-Sampio, 2019). Far from being an acute portrait of a multifactorial phenomenon as migration, the common use of culturally familiar frames exposes the tendency to conflate different categories of migration subjects and, thus reinforce stereotypes about them (Crawley, 2009). To pursue a more ethical approach, professional associations and scholars have proposed different techniques, approaches, and formats for migration reporting, emphasizing explanatory, in-depth investigative, and narrative forms of journalism (DevReporter, 2016; Ethical Journalism Network, 2016). The broad label of narrative journalism may apply to a variety of products across different media (Van Krieken, 2019). In this paper, I will focus on two examples of long-form journalism, published in book format. One is the piece of investigative journalism My Fourth Time, We Drowned (2022), from the freelance journalist Sally Hayden, and the other is Ali Está o Taras Shevchenko com Um Tiro na Cabeça [There is Taras Shevchenko with a shot on the head] (2023), from the Portuguese journalist Ana França, a self-referred diary from her work in Ukraine for the reference newspaper Expresso. While “My Fourth Time…” investigates the flux of migrants from Africa to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea, “Ali Está…” discusses França’s coverage of the war in Ukraine and the consequent refugees’ exodus. Both share the characteristic of presenting the journalists as an ‘I’-observer which creates space for the expression of self-reassessment of journalists’ role amidst humanitarian crises and the inherent ambivalence surrounding journalism craft. Through a critical analysis of the two pieces, we will discuss if the figure of this ‘I’-observer helps to promote a more accurate portrait of migration by offering not closed answers, but by sharing with the reader the doubts and hesitance of the journalist in the middle of very complex and critical situations.
Period12 Jan 2024
Event title4th Lisbon Winter School for the Study of Communication: Media and Ambivalence
Event typeOther
LocationPortugalShow on map