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People expect their news to be immediate in a world where the internet allows for high-speed communication. The impact of world news has also been heightened. Many people need or want to know what is going on in the world around them. Other countries’ wars, policies, and actions may affect their daily lives. This heightened demand for readily available world news in our modern age has also increased the demand for something else. Translation and localization.

This may not shock most people, but other countries don’t always speak English. They don’t usually speak any language other than their own. There are some cases where a country may have multiple languages, and many government officials worldwide do learn English for the sake of easy communication with foreign countries. This doesn’t mean that the populations of these countries do. This creates two interesting dilemmas for journalists in all countries.

Do We Translate our own Reporting?

First is what to do with the news they report nationally. Many news websites take the opportunity to translate their stories into multiple languages. This helps them to ensure that all citizens are the country they report from can read and understand what is happening around them. This also comes with the benefit that foreigners who want to understand their news can.

That being said, there are currently 7,100 languages internationally. The time and resources it would take to translate a news website and every story on it are almost unfathomable. That’s assuming you can even find capable translators for each language.

News publications have to ask themselves, at what point is it worth translating our stories? Do you wait for there to be enough interested readers of a certain language? Do you go off of population percentage? It’s hard to rationalize a translation into Dumi if only eight people speak it worldwide (yes that is a real language). Does that mean those people don’t get the news? These tricky questions have been answered in different ways.

CNN, an American news outlet, has chosen to report in only three languages, even though they cover international stories. English, Spanish, and surprisingly Arabic. Contrast this with NHK, Japan’s leading news service, which reports in 21 different languages. Their audiences are different since a majority of NHK’s 21 belong to nearby countries. CNN on the other hand, doesn’t need to provide that kind of service to bring in large quantities of readers.

What to do with International News?

The second problem a news publication will deal with is how to best report on international events. It can be tricky and expensive to report on what is happening outside of one’s own country. Over time, two clear solutions have been utilized in this field.

First, is an on-the-ground reporter. You send someone who works for your publication to live and work in the country you would like to report on. The benefits of doing so are first-hand reporting, original content, and a potential first stab at a story. When you have your person working and living in a country, it is so much easier for them to keep their ear to the ground. They can compete to tell stories first, acquire their own footage, and perform their own interviews with greater ease.

The downside to in-person reporting is the high cost. You now have to pay for airfare, living expenses, driving expenses, and often a translator. This is why many publications are moving away from this style of reporting. Instead, they utilize the internet to be almost as fast, almost as accurate, and almost as original.

This isn’t to say that second-hand reporting is bad in any way. It’s probably the smartest thing a publication can do to provide their readers with international news. All it takes is an employee who can sit at a computer and monitor the news sights of a few countries, and then report on what is happening there. The content is still original, they aren’t going to copy and paste what they’ve read. It just carries a new set of problems.

News reported in this way may struggle with accuracy. If one person gets information wrong, then everyone does. Original reporting allows for more clarity in news than second-hand reporting. They also have to reuse footage and interviews from other publications, some of which aren’t willing to share.

There may also be issues if a story breaks in a language that your publication doesn’t already have translators for. To quickly hire and translate someone else’s story to report it may be difficult. No one will read the publication if they report something after the fact.

All of this is to say that international news is a tricky business. To what extent do you need to report to an international audience? How many languages does your audience speak? How should you cover international stories? These can be difficult questions to answer, and different publications have had different levels of success in doing so. Luckily as consumers, we have access to so much information because of it. We can know what is happening almost anywhere in the world, and it’s thanks to the power of translation.

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