Type of Work

Research Paper - Limited Access

Publication Date



This paper examines the media frames used to cover local refugees in the city of Utica’s most widely read newspaper, the Utica Observer-Dispatch. On the whole, refugees represent a vulnerable population that have been politicized over the past decade, particularly by politicians who seek to enact tougher border control policies and limit migration to the United States. The city of Utica is notable because despite its small size, it hosts a significant refugee population and has been recognized for its welcoming community, earning it the nickname of “the town that loves refugees.” We examine the perception of Utica as a welcoming city for refugees by asking the following questions: how have refugees been portrayed by the local press; has this varied by group; has this varied by time of arrival; and, how has the local media portrayed refugees during times of economic growth/decline? Using Atlas.ti, a qualitative analysis software, we analyze the media frames employed in 86 articles that focus on refugees in the local community published in the Observer-Dispatch between 2002 and 2023. The most commonly used frames regarding refugees that appeared in the sample were about the traumatic histories they had experienced prior to arriving in the United States, the various programs and types of aid provided by the Center, and generally positive portrayals highlighting the achievements and contributions of refugees in the city. Our largest sample of articles came from 2015 and the groups with the most coverage were Burmese and Bosnian refugees.

Hamilton Areas of Study


Hamilton Sponsoring Organization

Levitt Public Affairs Center

Hamilton Scholarship Series

Levitt Summer Research Fellowship

Hamilton Faculty Advisor

Andrea Peña-Vasquez