On Oct. 5, a conference was held to enlighten attendees on the variety of cultural publications in southern California.
The conference, titled ‘The News in Many Languages: Journalism in Southern California,’ was hosted by English professor Rodrigo Lazo in the Humanities Instructional Building.
‘Everyday in this country, millions of people receive their news in languages other than English,’ Lazo said. ‘This should puncture the notion that the United States is mono-lingual.’
A graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism, Lazo commented on the state of mainstream news today, specifically noting the trend toward corporate control and stressing the importance of multi-cultural newspapers.
Lazo explained that these newspapers are often shipped to other, less progressive countries where unadulterated news might not otherwise be available.
Speaker Julian Do, co-director of the New American Media Website, explained that these cultural papers often focus on important issues like the lack of health education and civil liberties in various countries.
Do said that ‘no single media entity could entirely cover today’s issues.’ He explained that the voices of many communities are often left out of public opinion and that these cultural papers aim to bridge that gap.
Do also spoke of the seclusion of many ethnic communities in mainstream media.
As examples, he spoke of the Middle East and Cambodia, suggesting that it is difficult to gain a true understanding of the happenings in these countries through mainstream media.
Speaker Fatima Bakhit, is president of the Arab-American Press Guild, which was first launched in New York City in 1892 and continues to play a large role in the lives of Arab-Americans, helping them with their sense of cultural identity.
Arab-American newspapers circulate over 500,000 copies in America, and Southern California serves as their largest outlet.
Speaker Geoff Chin, a reporter for various Chinese daily news publications, stated that there are six daily papers serving the 400,000 Chinese-Americans in Southern California. He stressed the importance of these papers to recent Chinese immigrants.
When Lazo asked the speakers about the objectivity of their newspapers, they came to a fairly general consensus. Chin explained that ‘news is a process of selection.’ Bakhit agreed, as did Do, who said, ‘I am not sure if there is such a thing as objectivity in media coverage. We try to balance the news.’
All of the speakers agreed that their respective cultural publications strive for the truth.
Do pointed to the subjectivity of news reporting after Hurricane Katrina, saying that the controversies after the hurricane were presented in terms of black and white racism.
He said that there were few reports of victims of other ethnic backgrounds, mentioning that there were 350,000 Vietnamese who suffered from the hurricane.
The speakers also discussed of the challenges of reporting in other languages.
Chin explained that the reporters for the papers he works for must be fluent in Chinese and English and have a fair understanding of the many Chinese dialects.
Do explained that he has encountered times when he read two different reporters’ translations of the same news article and there were large differences between the two. He also said that some languages spoken in Cambodia are mainly oral and very difficult to transcribe.
Bakhit added that most Arab-American papers are published in Arabic and English, for the benefit of many second generation Arab-Americans who speak English as their primary language.
The conference raised awareness of the many cultures in America and of the importance and prevalence of their publications.
Lazo suggested that ‘the English language is so dominant, that other languages are often forgotten.’
Filed Under: News