America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism.
This survey was called What Americans Think About Immigration and Why.
The following questions give more insight into how Andrea reported the story.
Q: You spent 4 days in Clarkston and Atlanta for this story. How did you decide what to do with that time?
I spent my first day mostly off mic, chatting with people about who I am and why I’m in town. To me, that’s a crucial step for establishing transparency and trust, especially when you are an outsider. My approach has always been “I’m not the expert, I’m here to learn.” I took recommendations and leads everywhere I went.
Q: Did anything surprise you about what you learned?
I was surprised to find somewhat of a booming industry around refugee resettlement. The network for support services and advocacy work is truly something to marvel at in such a small town. I was also surprised to hear that not everyone is comfortable with the work of that network — that for some refugees, there is fear of exploitation.
That discovery could only come from listening carefully to people I met, taking their recommendations but also taking my own route in order to find real nuance in perspectives.
Q: What was the most valuable lesson for you?
I initially struggled to find folks who were uncomfortable with the influx of refugees, because at first the only people I found — at stores, on the street or from leads — were refugees or advocates. So I went to neighboring towns. In pursuit of this perspective, I spent a lot of time negotiating space and fighting this feeling I had — that I’m here at this Waffle House, for example, looking to fill a specific gap.
Figuring out when and where and how to talk to people, especially when seeking a perspective that is largely unpopular or otherwise silenced, is tricky space.
My advice: Don’t sacrifice the integrity of your approach or reporting for the sake of landing one specific perspective. Do your best to find diversity in perspective.
Q: What advice do you have for others who want to do a story similar to this?
As always, don’t go in thinking you know the story. As you go along, present information and perspectives you gather to others you meet. It’s an informal way of cross-checking that will yield nuance and help prevent you from coming away with “the story” of a town or community.
Such a thing doesn’t exist, and it’s our job to go beyond existing narratives.