Scholars of political communication have stressed the critical role of the media in modern liberal democracies (Bennett and Entman 2001; Chong and Druckman 2007; Koopmans and Statham 2010; McCombs 2004; Norris 2000). The media inform the public, provide a communicative bridge between political and social actors, influence perceptions of pressing issues, depict topics and people in particular ways and may shape individuals’ political views and participation. Despite this critical role, students of migrants and minorities have rarely used systematic media analysis in their scholarship. We believe that the time is ripe to review how a focus on the media can help advance a field that traditionally has been explored with other types of data. In this special issue, we showcase a diverse set of new research to illustrate the ways in which media analysis advances our knowledge about migrants and minorities in the public sphere. Understanding the factors that shape media coverage of migrants and minorities,
as well as the effect of that coverage on public attitudes, policy outcomes or social relations, has a modest but growing foundation. To further advance our knowledge, this special issue is oriented around a comparative approach. Media coverage may be copious or minimal, positive or negative, social or political. These axes of difference can be examined across time; across regions, countries or cities; between media outlets of different types, political stripes or economic ownership structures; and with reference to a wide range of migrant or minority groups and issues, spanning asylum to security, integration to racial discrimination. Comparative analysis connects
studies on the media, migrants and minorities to broader research questions in comparative politics, sociology and communication studies, and establishes baselines for further comparative work in these fields. Beyond comparison, we are also struck by how recent changes in archiving and
computer analysis have produced an explosion of raw media data to be analysed, as well as new techniques for doing so. These tools allow scholars to undertake much broader and deeper comparisons than ever before. Archives of print media are now easy to search, and archives of radio, television and web-based media are improving. Sophisticated software programs and greater computing power provide even beginning researchers with the ability to analyse hundreds if not thousands of pages of articles, transcripts and commentary from a laptop computer. The possibilities are exciting, even if the challenges of coding and interpreting data from these rich resources can be daunting and should not be underestimated. In what follows, we first examine what migration and minority scholars gain
theoretically by examining the media. We delineate three ways to connect media studies to scholarship on migrants and minorities, focused on information, representations and participation. We concentrate on the media as a source of news and forum for public discussion, leaving for others the study of entertainment media. We next raise some critical methodological issues: how do we choose media sources to study? How do we sample media production? How do we code and analyse the data? In discussing substantive interventions as well as methodological challenges, we situate the contributions in this special issue in the broader research landscape and show how they shed new light on some of these issues. All the contributions explicitly rely on comparison, and most leverage the growing data in media archives. Given that archiving has gone furthest for print media, many of the contributors rely on newspaper analysis, although we also touch on web-based public commentary. We end by concisely summarising the contributions in this issue, and then drawing out themes that emerge across the articles, as well as outlining directions for further research.