Roberto A. Valdeón’s Research on Journalistic Translation (I)

Despite the long-standing role of translation in news production activities, it was more than a decade ago that journalistic translation research became popular among translation scholars and students (see Valdeón 2015). During this short period, however, numerous publications (e.g., Schäffner 2012; Bielsa and Bassnett 2009) have specified the pivotal role of translation in news production and problematized research on journalistic translation. Among the scholars who have made significant contributions to this sub-area of translation studies is Roberto A. Valdeón, a professor at the Department of English, French, and German philology at the University of Oviedo, in Spain. Two significant contributions by Valdeón are his work on the historical importance of translation for news production and his writings on the conceptual problems of research on translation in news contexts. What follows is an overview of this scholar’s research on journalism and translation from a historical perspective (we will discuss the latter aspect of his works in a separate blog entry).

In his paper From the Dutch corantos to convergence journalism: the role of translation in news production, Valdeón (2012a) traces the connection between translation and journalism from the 17th to the 21st century. His review of some studies (e.g., Høyer 2003; Ettinghausen 2001; Harris 1987) on the history of journalism in European countries such as England, Spain, and Scandinavia reveals the crucial role of translation in early news production activities. For instance, during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the news of the war was imported into England in the form of gazettes (or corantos) originally written in Dutch. Since people did not understand that language, the gazettes were translated into English and reported in manuscript newsletters. The first English translations were carried out by London Stationers in 1620-21 (Dooley and Baron 2001).The process of translation was not often governed by the norm of objectivity and faithfulness to the original. Indeed, translation was a means of manipulation, carried out in line with the policy of the government. Valdeón’s (2012a) article shows that from the birth of journalism to present day, translation has been not only an integral part of news production, but also an instrument of controlling the flow of information in society.

Also, Valdeón elaborates on the relevance of research on journalistic translation to the notion of information society (2012b; 2010), which, according to Karvalics is “a new form of social existence in which the storage, production, flow, etc. of networked information plays the central role” (2007, 23). The role that translation plays in the production of news throughout history is discussed by Valdeón in the Handbook of translation studies (2012b), where he addresses the significance of translation for the development of the information society. Again offering an historical perspective, he says that, although the information society grew rapidly as the 20th century came to an end, its origins go back to the birth of journalism in the 16th and the 17th centuries in Europe (p. 67). Valdeón argues that at that time the transfer of information was both physical and linguistic: England, Scandinavia and Spain imported pamphlets produced in the Low Countries, Germany and France and translated the information for new audiences (ibid.). Indeed, translation played a central role in the transmission of news information from one linguistic society to another.

Another contribution by Valdeón that represents his concern with history is his article Fifteen years of journalistic translation research and more (2015), which encapsulates and reviews the scholarship conducted so far on translation in journalistic settings, from the early studies in the 1990s to those carried out in the 21st century. Each section of the article relates to a particular issue and examines the works of translation scholars as well as some relevant studies conducted in the realm of communication and journalism (e.g., Baumann et al. 2011a; 2011b). Valdeón addresses the question of translation in the history of journalism in the United States (e.g., Hamilton 2009), indicating the key role that translation played in the dissemination of foreign-news information in the American society. Other sections of this article address: a) the conceptual problems in journalistic translation research, b) process-oriented vs. product-oriented research on journalistic translation; c) reception studies; and d) medium-based studies, i.e. comparing news translation between broadcasting and newspapers. Among the merits of Valdeón’s historical account (2015) is that it categorizes various studies and offers an encompassing view of journalistic translation scholarship. Moreover, the numerous works cited in this article make it both an inspiring and a valuable source for researchers.

Overall, Valdeón’s research on journalistic translation from an historical perspective highlights that translation is indispensable for the international transfer of news information and has played a political role in projecting a particular image of the world to news consumers throughout the history of journalism. With substantial developments in the media industry that have turned the world into a global village, dissemination and management of news information by means of translation have become perhaps more significant to the construction of social, economic, and political structures. Thanks to the numerous studies conducted in the relatively short history of journalistic translation research, the socio-political role of translation in news production is now apparent. However, journalistic translation is a domain of enquiry still in the making, especially in terms of methodology and conceptualizing translation in news corpora. As mentioned earlier, we will discuss Valdeón’s contributions to the conceptual problems of research on journalistic translation in a second blog entry.

Référence(s) bibliographique(s)

Politics and the Press in Spain

Ettinghausen, Henry. « Politics And The Press In Spain ». Dans The Politics Of Information In Early Modern Europe, Brendan Dooley and Sabrina Baron (eds), 199-215. London/New York: Routledge, 2001.

Information Society – what is it exactly?

Karvalics, L.Z. « Information Society – What Is It Exactly? ». Dans Information Society: From Theory To Political Practice, Pintér, R. (ed)., 29–46. Budapest: Gondolat – Új Mandátum, 2008.

Rethinking transediting

Schäffner, Christina. « Rethinking Transediting ». Meta: Journal Des Traducteurs 57, no 4 (2012), 866-883. doi:10.7202/1021222ar.

Information, communication, translation

Valdeón, Roberto A. « Information, Communication, Translation ». Dans Handbook Of Translation Studies, Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer (eds), 3:66–72. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2012.