Expect to see more translations and non-English content

“Many immigrants are at the bottom of the news chain — both due to language barriers and the lack of nuanced and informed reporting from their perspectives.”

As U.S. media faced a long overdue racial reckoning in 2020 and began to explore what media reparations could look like, more journalism leaders also realized how many people they leave behind by producing news only in English.

Nearly 22 percent of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. That number has doubled since 1980 and is expected to continue to rise. Spanish is by far the most common, with 41.5 million people speaking that language at home.

Also consider that in several of the nation’s largest cities, around half of residents don’t speak English at home. The percentage is much higher in some specific communities, such as Passaic, N.J., where 78 percent of the population spoke a language other than English at home.

More people in the mainstream media woke up to these facts in 2020, thanks in part due to the public information crisis created by the pandemic, when critical information about COVID-19 needed to be disseminated quickly and in multiple languages.

We predict that translation and content production in multiple languages will accelerate in the U.S. in 2021. Additionally, we foresee more substantive and equitable partnerships developing between mainstream and ethnic media organizations.

This is important, as many immigrants are at the bottom of the news chain — both due to language barriers and the lack of nuanced and informed reporting from their perspectives. And with limited translated information available from state and federal health agencies about the coronavirus, these already underserved audiences are more vulnerable to disinformation; this will be a critical issue as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out to the general U.S. population.

We saw several examples of this kind of work in 2020.

In Philadelphia, Kensington Voice translated COVID-19 articles produced by members of the Broke in Philly collaborative from English to Spanish. Resolve Philadelphia, where Broke in Philly is based, also produced a COVID-19 style guide for Spanish translation.

In New Jersey, we at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University launched a translation program for COVID-19 and election stories in a partnership that involved NJ Spotlight News, Reporte Hispano, Sing Tao Daily, The Korea Daily and NorthJersey.com. Reporters at three news organizations — Kleibeel Marcano of Reporte Hispano, Rong Xiaoqing of Sing Tao Daily, and Jongwon Lee of The Korea Daily — serve as the translators. The stories run in both ethnic news outlets and mainstream publications. Marcano also teamed up with Rodrigo Torrejon at NJ.com/The (Newark) Star-Ledger to co-report two election-related stories that ran in both publications.

In New Hampshire, New Hampshire Public Radio launched a Spanish-language daily audio program earlier this year in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative, focused on the coronavirus pandemic. The Granite State News Collaborative has also translated partner content, had bilingual episodes of the digital public affairs show it produces with New Hampshire PBS and consults regularly with its Spanish Media Advisory group.

One important point: We hope mainstream media organizations adhere to the examples above and seek to truly partner with news outlets that already serve non-English speaking communities, rather than only hiring bilingual staff and attempting to co-opt the audience themselves.

Stefanie Murray is director and Anthony Advincula is ethnic media coordinator of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

As U.S. media faced a long overdue racial reckoning in 2020 and began to explore what media reparations could look like, more journalism leaders also realized how many people they leave behind by producing news only in English.

Nearly 22 percent of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. That number has doubled since 1980 and is expected to continue to rise. Spanish is by far the most common, with 41.5 million people speaking that language at home.

Also consider that in several of the nation’s largest cities, around half of residents don’t speak English at home. The percentage is much higher in some specific communities, such as Passaic, N.J., where 78 percent of the population spoke a language other than English at home.

More people in the mainstream media woke up to these facts in 2020, thanks in part due to the public information crisis created by the pandemic, when critical information about COVID-19 needed to be disseminated quickly and in multiple languages.

We predict that translation and content production in multiple languages will accelerate in the U.S. in 2021. Additionally, we foresee more substantive and equitable partnerships developing between mainstream and ethnic media organizations.

This is important, as many immigrants are at the bottom of the news chain — both due to language barriers and the lack of nuanced and informed reporting from their perspectives. And with limited translated information available from state and federal health agencies about the coronavirus, these already underserved audiences are more vulnerable to disinformation; this will be a critical issue as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out to the general U.S. population.

We saw several examples of this kind of work in 2020.

In Philadelphia, Kensington Voice translated COVID-19 articles produced by members of the Broke in Philly collaborative from English to Spanish. Resolve Philadelphia, where Broke in Philly is based, also produced a COVID-19 style guide for Spanish translation.

In New Jersey, we at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University launched a translation program for COVID-19 and election stories in a partnership that involved NJ Spotlight News, Reporte Hispano, Sing Tao Daily, The Korea Daily and NorthJersey.com. Reporters at three news organizations — Kleibeel Marcano of Reporte Hispano, Rong Xiaoqing of Sing Tao Daily, and Jongwon Lee of The Korea Daily — serve as the translators. The stories run in both ethnic news outlets and mainstream publications. Marcano also teamed up with Rodrigo Torrejon at NJ.com/The (Newark) Star-Ledger to co-report two election-related stories that ran in both publications.

In New Hampshire, New Hampshire Public Radio launched a Spanish-language daily audio program earlier this year in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative, focused on the coronavirus pandemic. The Granite State News Collaborative has also translated partner content, had bilingual episodes of the digital public affairs show it produces with New Hampshire PBS and consults regularly with its Spanish Media Advisory group.

One important point: We hope mainstream media organizations adhere to the examples above and seek to truly partner with news outlets that already serve non-English speaking communities, rather than only hiring bilingual staff and attempting to co-opt the audience themselves.

Stefanie Murray is director and Anthony Advincula is ethnic media coordinator of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

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