On Thursday, March 1, journalism students and professors who have reported in Greece and Canada met in a panel to discuss their work in migration communities.

For the past two summers, students have traveled to Greece to report on the continuing refugee crisis in Athens and the island of Lesbos. The students were part of JRN 465 / HLS 465: Reporting on the Front Lines of History in Greece, a summer journalism course that takes students to “migration hotspots” around the world to produce stories, videos, and photographs.  

Joe Stephens, a veteran investigative reporter for The Washington Post and the Edwin F. Ferris Professor in Residence has led the past two cohorts of students, and will guide another cohort this upcoming summer. Stephens created the course along with executive director of the Humanities Council Kathleen Crown in order to allow aspiring journalists to practice foreign correspondent work in the field. 

Crown is a member of the ‘Prince’ Board of Trustees. 

“Being in Princeton and in the Orange Bubble isn’t really the best place to practice being a foreign correspondent,” Stephens said.

The idea to focus the seminar on migration stems from trying to find a journalistic “hotspot” in the world for students to report on. At the time, Greece’s economy had collapsed, and refugees from Turkey began appearing on Greece’s shores. 

Journalism students Alice Maiden ’19 and Talya Nevins ’18 spoke about their experiences in the seminar. According to Nevins, the course is “very inspiring,” and gave them freedom to find their own stories.

Nevins focused on the narrative of Afghan refugees in Greece, in particular a family that she had visited several times at the City Plaza, which accommodates refugees. The family has been living in Greece for a year, but still did not know if they were going to receive refugee status.

“They were living in this immense state of limbo,” Nevins said. 

Maiden emphasized the challenges in trying to find a story in a foreign country, especially with a crisis that has so many different facets.

“It was us six, and we would travel in a pack, find a cafe, and sit there and say, ‘Where are we going to start? What are we going to write about?’” Maiden said.

She ended up writing about a refugee who opened a cafe in a camp. She found it interesting that the owner had invested so much into a cafe in such a transient environment, even adding matching furniture and plants. 

“He had a pool table,” said Maiden. “How did you get a pool table in a migrant camp?”

Maiden and Nevins recounted one of their most memorable experiences reporting in Greece. While at Moria refugee camp — where they weren’t allowed inside — the pair heard a noise that sounded like a “small explosion” near the camp entrance.

The sound turned out to be from a riot that was forming in the middle of the camp.

“Obviously, because we were journalists, we didn’t run or get into a cab,” Nevins said. 

Instead, the pair started filming as people began rushing out of the camp, and they soon produced a video on the riot.

Visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism Deborah Amos also discussed her students’ work. She taught “JRN 449: International News - Migration Reporting” last fall, and she led the class on a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba over fall break to report on the migrant community there. According to Amos, many students were initially surprised at the decision to go to Manitoba, and she noted that it was a good location to observe Canadian immigration policy.

Being on the border, the province sees many migrants crossing into Canada. Students could also observe the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Kieran Murphy ’19, Francesca Billington ’19, and Rose Gilbert ’20 all talked about their experiences in Manitoba. 

Gilbert is a senior writer for the ‘Prince.’

“In the weeks coming up to the trip we learned a lot about refugee reporting in the abstract,” said Murphy. “It was great to put it to practice.”

Billington discussed a woman the students met at a Mennonite Church. The woman had a two-year-old girl, whom they bonded over. 

“It was one of the first times that we had to ease into these conversations, and by the end she was excited to tell us how welcoming Canada has been to her,” Billington said. 

Murphy emphasized the lessons that the students learned about reporting on the refugee crisis.

“It’s really common to treat refugees as victims,” continued Murphy. “But it’s more important to treat them as resilient survivors.”

The panel was held in Louis A. Simpson International Building at 4:30 p.m.

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