Serving as the introduction to the special issue on ‘Migrant narratives’, this article proposes a multi-perspectival and multi-stakeholder analysis of how migration is narrated in the media in the last decade. This research agenda is developed by focussing on groups of actors that are commonly studied in isolation from each other: (1) migrants, (2) media professionals such as journalists and spokespersons from humanitarian organizations, (3) governments and corporations and (4) artists and activists. We take a relational approach to recognize how media power is articulated alongside a spectrum of more top-down and more bottom-up perspectives, through specific formats, genres and styles within and against larger frameworks of governmentality. Taken together, the poetics and politics of migrant narratives demand attention respectively for how stakeholders variously aesthetically present and politically represent migration. The opportunities, challenges, problems and commitments observed among the four groups of actors also provide the means to rethink our practice and responsibilities as media and migration scholars contributing to decentring media technologies and re-humanizing migrants.