ABC’s David Muir Puts Spotlight on Syrian Refugees

On Sept. 20, ABC World News Tonight did something no other evening broadcast has done. It set aside nearly five minutes for an in-depth examination of a major issue in the campaign: immigration.

For those who complain about the broadcasts focusing only on the charges and counter-charges, this was a significant break.

Muir Learns from Syrian Refugee Family

Muir Learns from Syrian Refugee Family (ABC Graphic)

The piece begins at the journey’s end: one Syrian family settling into American life. Hala, a young girl, begins her schooling at an elementary school. She’s met with curiosity and wonder from her classmates.

Later, Muir takes the viewer back to where it all began: Amman, Jordan. Intense security screenings, interviews and documentation analysis. This is just part of the process that can take two years.

By the end, one soon-to-be Syrian-American addressing U.S. citizens proclaims, “We are humans like you. We want to be like one of you.”

It is well worth five minutes to watch the full story.

Syrian Refugees: David Muir’s Year-Long Journey

As always, we asked our panel of experienced journalists to comment.

Hooman Majd who writes on the Middle East said: “I would say that the segment Muir did was exactly what network news should be all about.

“And if you believe the mandate of network news is, as originally conceived, to be a public service and for the public good without regard for commerce, then this story, reminding us who we are and who we aspire to be, fits right in.”

Ken Auletta, The New Yorker’s Annals of Communications writer, said: “…the piece showed how Syrian refugees were vetted by the State Department in Jordan, which gets at a central issue: Do we know who these people are before they arrive in America from a country where ISIS is strong? The piece also displayed the deep divisions between hopeful and fearful Americans.”

Jack Laurence, long-time CBS and ABC correspondent wrote from London: “Since I am not accustomed to watching TV news in this form, much of the story flashed by in a blur, too stylized and compressed for me to take in clearly.

“Maybe American viewers have adjusted to this kind of fast-paced TV news reporting, but I have not…There was no one interviewed who could say that strict measures are being taken to block terrorists from getting in, only that the interviewers are very professional,” Laurence said.

“That said, these types of stories should be reported at length in the evening news broadcasts. The subject matter in this case is important to Americans and to the rest of the world,” he said. “ABC News is to be commended for following the story for a year and for devoting this much time to the issue.”

Full Comments From Our Panel



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