As refugees resettle across Europe, four news organizations partner to tell the still-unfolding stories of integration – Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard

Across Europe, the migration story is still unfolding. Starting this month, four European news organizations — in Britain, France, Germany, and Spain — are partnering on an 18-month reporting project tracking individuals and families as they begin new lives in new home countries, as well as the communities that welcome them, amidst a rise of populist resentment.

“A good journalist knows how to tell stories happening at a given time. But this story is evolving in a way none of us can predict,” said Serge Michel, reporter-at-large for the French newspaper Le Monde and editor of Le Monde Afrique, the paper’s edition covering Francophone Africa. “So if you follow a family and they integrate well into the city, it’s one story. If there are problems, it’s another story. We don’t know what will happen.”

Le Monde is one of the four news organizations in The New Arrivals project, coordinated by the European Journalism Center and funded by the Gates Foundation, along with Spiegel Online in Germany, The Guardian in Britain, and El País in Spain. Each outlet has committed to following specific families (or, in the case of El País, members of a soccer team) for the duration of the project, while also examining the community-level response and efficacy of government policies and processes for asylum seekers.

The outlets represent four countries that are each their own case study for the next chapter of the migration story in Europe. In France, National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is gaining steam on an anti-immigration, anti-European Union platform. Angela Merkel is facing pressure in Germany — from all sides — in a presidential election year as the country grapples with a swell of around a million refugees. Running through the core of Britain’s exit from the European Union were fears around immigration. And Spain, which hasn’t seen the same surge in asylum seekers as other countries in Europe, has long had refugees arriving from countries in West Africa.

There’s plenty of precedent for this cross-European collaboration, and inspiration to be drawn from the largest-scale reporting collaboration — the Panama Papers leaks shepherded by ICIJ. El País, the Guardian, and Le Monde are already part of a European newspaper alliance called Europa (with Italy’s La Stampa, Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, and Germeany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung), which has since 2011 shared reporting on Europe-wide issues, including the refugee crisis. El País is also part of the Leading European Newspaper Alliance with six other European outlets, which ran a two-month experiment to share coverage of the U.S. election last fall across all its member papers.

El País, The Guardian, and Le Monde also already run sections of their sites funded by the Gates Foundation; Gates was interested in funding a collaboration that would test a more medium- to long-term approach to covering the migration crisis than was already being offered through many news organizations.

Talks with these publishers (chosen by the Gates Foundation) began late spring last year. Editors spent a full day last July in the El País newsroom brainstorming, finally settling on the idea that each organization would choose a single family to accompany and cover for a year and a half. (For a while, the project was called “Four Families.” But that proved too narrow a focus, so the group took up The Guardian’s suggestion, “New Arrivals.”) The European Journalism Center came on board soon after to coordinate workflows and content sharing, including moderating a closed Facebook group for the participants to communicate on and managing shared assets like data, photographs, video, and other behind-the-scenes information, according to EJC director Adam Thomas. The group held several other editorial meetings in their home cities before officially launching the project this month.

“I know it can be hard enough to coordinate one’s own internal work, and it adds another layer of complexity when you have other media organizations with other deadlines and readerships and their own internal rhythms to fine-tune as well,” said Mark Rice-Oxley, special projects editor at The Guardian, who has coordinated its previous multi-newspaper collaborations. “But I also have seen that you end up with something much more powerful, particularly in this very competitive and content-rich world we live in.”

As refugees resettle across Europe, four news organizations partner to tell the still-unfolding stories of integration – Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard

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