Newspaper data are a popular data source for studies across the social sciences. This paper empirically exam- ines the widespread criticisms that this data is hampered by selection, description and researcher bias. It does so by taking one of the most authoritative European comparative research projects ‘Mobilisation on Ethnic Rela- tions, Citizenship and Immigration’ (MERCI) as its case study given that the resulting publications have in- spired many researches on both sides of the Atlantic to apply the so-called ‘claims-making’ method (e.g. Koop- mans, Statham, Giugni and Passy 2005). Drawing on the author’s familiarity with the Dutch part of the data set and field specific expertise, this paper qualitatively re-analyses the claims recorded for Surinamese, Turkish and Kurdish migrants in the Netherlands and reviews the conclusions for migrant transnationalism and integration in particular. It reveals how an ethnographic approach can tackle description bias and researcher unreliability and brings selection bias into full view. While offering concrete suggestions for incorporating ethnography into newspaper analysis, it also exposes the limits of these methods for the study of cross-border activities such as migrant transnationalism.