Diaspora journalism takes the next step

“Shedding socioeconomic and cultural preconceptions and approaching the diaspora on equal terms, with an open mind, must be a priority.”

Coverage of immigrant communities often focuses on their journey and the challenges at their destination, but more news organizations are realizing the untapped potential of connecting diaspora audiences with their homelands, opening new opportunities for stories and revenue in the coming year and beyond.

Organizations on both sides of the equator have been charting the way in the past few years, experimenting with products and models with varying degrees of success. In a research paper for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published earlier this year, journalist Claudia L. Cruz analyzed some of those cases and pointed out that those that have thrived did so by dedicating time and resources to understanding the audiences they wanted to reach.

“The first goal of any outlet looking to explore new opportunities like this should be profiling the audience in the most detailed way possible, and then considering how your existing product might meet their unique needs. This exploration should go beyond audience data to incorporate research that will give you the clearest possible information about your customer segment,” wrote Cruz.

In practice, that translates into coverage that audiences can not find anywhere else. For example, Conexión Migrante, a digital publication for Latino migrants on both sides of the U.S. border with Mexico, has built a following by creating content that caters to the needs of migrants that are already in the U.S. and need information on how to apply for services and benefits — but also for those that are on the road and need assistance and advice to avoid dangers.

It also offers content for the families that stayed behind and want to know about life in the places where their loved ones are. Recently, through the support of Report for the World, Conexión Migrante added a reporter focused entirely on covering migrant women.

Premium Times in Nigeria created a dedicated diaspora beat where reporters cover relevant news for the biggest clusters of Nigerians abroad, but also local stories written for those who want to stay informed about what happens in their home country, but don’t have the time or energy to follow every development.

In 2023, we’ll see more news organizations tinker with these models. In order to be successful, newsroom leaders will have to avoid the mistake that many politicians make when courting the votes from migrants: Assuming that they are an extension of their local audiences with the same interests or needs. Shedding socioeconomic and cultural preconceptions and approaching the diaspora on equal terms, with an open mind, must be a priority.

Deciphering what coverage is valued by the diaspora will also be key. This, as Cruz argued, can be achieved by listening to these communities, whether it’s through surveys, in-person events, or other channels, and translating those insights into news products that fill a role in their lives.

A separate mention must be made for members of the media in exile, who have the added responsibility of speaking for those who can’t do so in their countries, usually with few resources, but serving audiences who desperately need their content. Organizations like Radio Rozana for Syrians and Armando.Info for Venezuelans, among others, have proved that it is possible to sustain independent and impactful projects with the support of the diaspora and the international community. But there is still a lot of work to be done to help exiled journalists, particularly those from Afghanistan and Myanmar, get back on their feet and launch new initiatives.

Diaspora communities will continue to grow around the world, fueled by conflict, climate change, economic opportunities, and many other factors. For those news organizations that see an opportunity and invest in understanding their audiences abroad, this can be an opportunity to expand their reach and provide a unique service to their users, regardless of where they live.

Wilson Liévano is the managing editor of The GroundTruth Project, home of Report for the World.

Coverage of immigrant communities often focuses on their journey and the challenges at their destination, but more news organizations are realizing the untapped potential of connecting diaspora audiences with their homelands, opening new opportunities for stories and revenue in the coming year and beyond.

Organizations on both sides of the equator have been charting the way in the past few years, experimenting with products and models with varying degrees of success. In a research paper for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published earlier this year, journalist Claudia L. Cruz analyzed some of those cases and pointed out that those that have thrived did so by dedicating time and resources to understanding the audiences they wanted to reach.

“The first goal of any outlet looking to explore new opportunities like this should be profiling the audience in the most detailed way possible, and then considering how your existing product might meet their unique needs. This exploration should go beyond audience data to incorporate research that will give you the clearest possible information about your customer segment,” wrote Cruz.

In practice, that translates into coverage that audiences can not find anywhere else. For example, Conexión Migrante, a digital publication for Latino migrants on both sides of the U.S. border with Mexico, has built a following by creating content that caters to the needs of migrants that are already in the U.S. and need information on how to apply for services and benefits — but also for those that are on the road and need assistance and advice to avoid dangers.

It also offers content for the families that stayed behind and want to know about life in the places where their loved ones are. Recently, through the support of Report for the World, Conexión Migrante added a reporter focused entirely on covering migrant women.

Premium Times in Nigeria created a dedicated diaspora beat where reporters cover relevant news for the biggest clusters of Nigerians abroad, but also local stories written for those who want to stay informed about what happens in their home country, but don’t have the time or energy to follow every development.

In 2023, we’ll see more news organizations tinker with these models. In order to be successful, newsroom leaders will have to avoid the mistake that many politicians make when courting the votes from migrants: Assuming that they are an extension of their local audiences with the same interests or needs. Shedding socioeconomic and cultural preconceptions and approaching the diaspora on equal terms, with an open mind, must be a priority.

Deciphering what coverage is valued by the diaspora will also be key. This, as Cruz argued, can be achieved by listening to these communities, whether it’s through surveys, in-person events, or other channels, and translating those insights into news products that fill a role in their lives.

A separate mention must be made for members of the media in exile, who have the added responsibility of speaking for those who can’t do so in their countries, usually with few resources, but serving audiences who desperately need their content. Organizations like Radio Rozana for Syrians and Armando.Info for Venezuelans, among others, have proved that it is possible to sustain independent and impactful projects with the support of the diaspora and the international community. But there is still a lot of work to be done to help exiled journalists, particularly those from Afghanistan and Myanmar, get back on their feet and launch new initiatives.

Diaspora communities will continue to grow around the world, fueled by conflict, climate change, economic opportunities, and many other factors. For those news organizations that see an opportunity and invest in understanding their audiences abroad, this can be an opportunity to expand their reach and provide a unique service to their users, regardless of where they live.

Wilson Liévano is the managing editor of The GroundTruth Project, home of Report for the World.

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