A man walks toward the camera through a warehouse and passes under an American Flag hanging from the rafters of the plastic comb factory. He is wearing a blur surgical mask as a woman walks away from him and the camera.

Center for Cooperative Media to launch Spanish Translation News Service in New Jersey

Pilot collaboration between local news and Spanish-language media will address language barriers and misinfo in Latino communities

Whether it’s the election, the coronavirus pandemic, or some other natural disaster, language barriers have thrust many non-English speaking Latinos in New Jersey to the bottom of the information chain.

Since many online tools related to prevention and emergency services or access to government news and information are only available in English, many Latinos — particularly immigrants in the state — have limited access to first-hand sources in Spanish and face the real challenges of overcoming misinformation.

In response, the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University will soon launch the NJ News Commons Spanish Translation News Service, a pilot project that seeks to harness the state’s best statewide reporting and make it available and accessible to news organizations that serve Spanish-speaking communities.

Through translation, the project involves collaboration between local news outlets and Spanish-language media in the state. The project is supported in part by a $50,000 grant from the NJ Civic Information Consortium, along with continued support from the Democracy Fund.

“Most Spanish-language news organizations based in New Jersey serve local audiences and often do not have the staff to chase developments coming out of Trenton or statewide breaking news that affects all New Jerseyans,” said Stefanie Murray, director of the Center. “This resource exchange in Spanish will allow Spanish-language publications to get news to their audiences that otherwise they might not have been able to share.”

Currently, nearly 2 million Latinos reside in New Jersey, according to the latest U.S. Census data, and an estimated 73 percent of them speak (or read) Spanish at home. And that’s why partnering with the largest Spanish-language and mainstream media outlets in the state to translate statewide news — especially elections-related content and voter information — into Spanish is vital.

Last year, at the height of the pandemic, the Center established a Spanish translation program with NJ Spotlight News for COVID-19 stories. The main goal was to provide the Latino community direct access to accurate and timely information about the pandemic. As a result, NJ Spotlight News created En Español, a landing page where it posted all stories translated. That translation program was funded by a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

For this new translation service project, up to five stories originally produced in English and various formats (text, photographs, and video and multimedia) by statewide media partners — including NJ Spotlight News— will be selected and translated each week. The translated articles will be immediately sent to Spanish-language media outlets that are part of the project for use on their platforms.

The Spanish-language partners so far include Hispano New Jersey, Reporte Hispano, The Latino Spirit, Americano Newspaper, The Nubian News and El Latino News.

“A nuanced Spanish translation, culturally and linguistically, is crucial to mitigate language barriers and narrow information gaps in the Latino immigrant community, most especially during the election or an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Diego Maya, publisher of The Latino Spirit.

In addition, the project will create a pop-up weekly newsletter, sharing content and other reporting resources in Spanish. The Center will create a webpage and post the translated stories when they become available, and will seek to develop social media content based on the translated stories to be shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Up to six bilingual translators will be hired, mostly reporters and editors from ethnic media in New Jersey. This will help ensure accurate and nuanced translation.

As the translation initiative gets off the ground and grows, the Center hopes that the project will create stronger relationships between the mainstream news partners and the Spanish-language news outlets, and those relationships would result into other collaborative projects.

Featured image caption: A factory worker passes under an American Flag at a Paterson-based factory that develops plastic combs and molds. The factory is owned and operated by the American Comb Corporation and Bennett Plastics. (Credit: Julian Rigg via Hawk News Service.)

Oni Advincula is the community and ethnic media program director at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact him at oni.advincula@gmail.com or advinculaa@montclair.edu.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a primarily grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

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An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

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Oni Advincula

Oni Advincula

Oni is a journalist. He covers immigration, health, politics and government, and ethnic media.

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