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November 18, 2022

Local Fix: Local New Jersey news in translation

Welcome to the Local Fix. Every so often we look at key questions in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. But first, we always begin with one good idea…

Get inspired by pro-democracy journalism

Heading into the political landscape that is now taking shape, we at Democracy Fund were thrilled to help celebrate the kickoff of the Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard University on Tuesday. One very tangible takeaway: The launch of a toolkit of resources and support for journalists reporting on democracy thanks to Election SOS, Hearken, and other partners. Check out the case studies, bookmark this table of potential partners (including funders), and sign up for some of the other resources they recommend
ALSO: Meet Pinay! Our intern this academic year on the Public Square team, Pinay is a recent UVA graduate with a passion for storytelling that is for and by communities of color and which encourages these communities to organize around their political needs. She joined DF with the desire to learn more about grant-making and how funders can support marginalized communities in sustaining an accessible, collaborative, and useful public square. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn!
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Why translating local news in New Jersey matters

Editor’s Note: In the fourth part of our guest writer series this fall (check out the others here), we’re passing the mic to Joe Amditis and the Center for Cooperative Media. Ecosystems are the core of how we approach our local news work at Democracy Fund. This fall we are bringing you tangible examples from regions across the U.S. where people are putting in the work to build systemic responses to the local news crisis. Take it away, Joe!

New Jersey is an extremely diverse state and has a robust ecosystem of ethnic and community media organizations. For one example, 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. Yet language barriers, systemic marginalization and a lack of resources often prevent journalists at these community and ethnic news outlets from being able to cover issues that extend outside of their communities — specifically, statewide and policy issues that impact all residents. 

Anthony “Oni” Advincula knows this struggle intimately. He is the ethnic media coordinator at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University and has been immersed in ethnic media for 25 years. That’s why during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he ran a program at the Center to translate critical COVID information into multiple languages for news outlets across New Jersey to pick up. He did the same with voting information for the 2020 election. 

“There are certain English terms, like ‘flu-like symptoms,’ that may be vague for Spanish readers. That’s why a nuanced translation, culturally and linguistically, is crucial to mitigate language barriers and narrow information gaps in the Latino immigrant community, most especially during this unprecedented public health crisis,” Kleibeel Marcano, editor of Reporte Hispano, who translates the stories, said in July 2020 when NJ Spotlight announced its role in the collaboration.

Now, Oni has expanded and formalized that work with the launch this fall of the NJ News Commons Spanish Translation Service. Oni came up with the idea for the project after multiple conversations and meetings with the handful of Spanish-language publishers operating across the state. With a grant from the NJ Civic Information Consortium, he immediately began implementing the project framework that he and the rest of us at the Center helped build.

The Spanish Translation Service pairs a group of statewide news organizations that publish and/or broadcast in English with a group of news organizations that serve Spanish speakers. Every day, Oni canvasses the statewide orgs’ websites for content that would be valuable for Spanish-language partners, and assigns stories to be translated to editors who work for the Spanish-language news organizations. Once the stories are translated they are shared with the entire group for republication. And, we’ve been thrilled to find that the entire group has been highly collaborative so far. 

The Spanish-language partners especially have found the project incredibly useful; it shares with them quality stories that help meet critical information needs of Spanish-speaking people in their coverage areas. Meanwhile, the New Jersey news ecosystem as a whole benefits because the stories our partners produce can now reach a wider audience in communities that were largely considered out of reach.

The folks at the Center for Cooperative Media were busy this week: They also just hosted a summit for New Jersey journalists, launched a series profiling community and ethnic media workers in the state, and recently published a report on assessing the information needs of three communities across the state. Follow the Center on Twitter, on Medium, and sign up for their newsletter.

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Have a good weekend,
Christine & Pinay

The Local Fix is a project of Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which supports work that aims to transform journalism so everyone has access to information they need to participate in our democracy.

Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund. You can find a full list of the organizations here.
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