CSII Publications

Promoting Misconceptions: News Media Coverage of Immigration

By Roberto Suro
Professor, Annenberg School of Communication
University of Southern California

Over the past three decades the news media have largely mischaracterized the wave of immigration that has transformed the United States, emphasizing themes of illegality, crisis, controversy, and government failure. In Promoting Misconceptions: News Media Coverage of Immigration, Roberto Suro outlined the media's coverage of immigration and how they frame the issue as a sudden crisis and focuses on the actions of immigrants, law enforcement officials, and policy makers.

This eclipses key contextual factors that powerfully influence both the size and content of immigration flows such as the labor market and the aging of the American work force. These tendencies in turn have created spaces for advocates who mobilize segments of the public in opposition to policy initiatives, sometimes exaggerating the narrative of immigration told by traditional news organizations.

By examining the pace of coverage and its primary focus from a variety of news organizations across periods of time, Suro suggested that the ways in which the media reports the news about immigration help to frame the crisis in the public mindset and therefore shape the debate. The result is widespread anxiety over illegal immigration and an exaggeration of attitudes at both ends of the political spectrum.

The author

Roberto Suro is a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and a CSII Affiliated Scholar. Suro is also a veteran print journalist for The New York Times and The Washington Post, with a history of covering Latinos and immigration to the United States throughout his extensive career. Prior to joining the School of Journalism faculty in August 2007, he was director of the Pew Hispanic Center, which he founded in 2001. 


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