Narrative, Scale, and Two Refugee Crises in Comparison in Italian Media

Bringing together narrative theory, migration studies, and contemporary discussions in the environmental humanities, this article considers the significance of the concept of scale for media narratives on migration. The starting point is that migration is a multiscalar phenomenon that ranges from migrants’ personal experience to the global factors (such as poverty and climate change) that shape migration on a planetary scale. Media narratives are often unable to bring together those scales, privileging the scale of regional or national debates at the expense of migrants’ experience or global phenomena. We discuss that idea through the qualitative analysis of migration coverage in the Italian media, focusing on two newspapers (Corriere della sera and Il Giornale) and two periods in 2015 and 2022. We thus compare what is frequently described as the refugee “crisis” of 2015 and the wave of migration created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The analysis shows that, in both newspapers, migration coverage in 2015 was marked by a disconnect between local and global events, whereas in 2022 the event structure of the war afforded closer integration between scales. This suggests that, even when no simple causal link can be established between the causes of migration and its effects, more efforts are needed to project a complex, nuanced image of migration in media storytelling.

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