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TPR Noticias: Finding Ourselves in Translation

In covering the Uvalde school shooting in late May, Texas Public Radio understood that listeners in that part of Texas needed news and information right away—and that they needed it in two languages.

There are news deserts throughout Texas where media outlets serve English-speaking listeners but not the many denizens of our state who might get more out of receiving the news in Spanish.

The media descended on Uvalde during those difficult days and sent their stories out to the world in English.

Texas Public Radio was there, too, among those folks in those dire situations and reported the stories in what for many in that area is their first language—Spanish—through TPR Noticias.

Translation is a complicated process. It’s been described often as a “selfless” act because no matter what the text is, translators are not so concerned with how good the story is going to be. They are really most concerned with who needs to read or hear the story.

A translator takes the original text and through an alchemical mix of language, imagination, and careful thought helps to deliver the text in a new language. It is a creative act—but it’s a practical art, too.

Once TPR perceived the need for providing news and information in Spanish to underserved and vulnerable communities most impacted by those stories, we took on the task of translating local stories, stories from along the border, and elsewhere – all through TPR Noticias.

TPR has also brought other bilingual programming to our listeners. Last spring and summer, a months’ long reporting project between TPR and the Houston Chronicle culminated in a multi-part podcast about the Haitian migration at the Texas-Mexico border. We produced the Line in the Land podcast in English and La Líneain Spanish.

With the support of a grant from the USC Center for Health Journalism, David Martin Davies and I investigated the complicated subject of childhood type 2 diabetes in our Mexican American communities. We produced two audio documentaries—one in English, Diagnosis Diabetes, and one in Spanish titled Diagnóstico Diabetes. Months of work researching, interviewing experts, and talking to folks through community engagement efforts, fortified our resolve to make these stories and important information available in Spanish.

Growing up on the border in Laredo, Texas, I loved to read and to write stories. During one conversation with my father about what I wanted to be when I grew up, he handed me a volume of the World Book Encyclopedia—the books that held the answers to so many questions and mysteries and homework assignments in my childhood. My father told me to look up “Periodista.” However, when I took the book from him, I saw he’d given me the letter “J” and his finger held the place in the book where I could read about “Journalism.”

I’m very proud of being bilingual and being able to help Texas Public Radio tell stories in English and Spanish. If translation is indeed a “selfless” act, it’s also one that never fails to give back to me.

Generous listener contributions to Texas Public Radio News—and Noticias—is a decidedly “selfless” act, too.

Texas Public Radio couldn’t bring Noticias to so many underserved and vulnerable communities who need this news and information in Spanish—without your kind support.



Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.