Taiwan News: A Few Thoughts on Institutional Stance and News Translation
戴維禮 (David Idesis)
During the summer vacation I spent a few weeks interning at Taiwan News writing and translating articles for their English platform. It not only provided me with an opportunity to work with a new variety of content, but also gave me some extra perspective with regards to the world of news media and how we fit in as translators.
What stood out the most in this internship was the political stance each news provider has. These almost form the personality of each outlet, as they subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) guide their articles in their preferred direction. This complicates our academic notion of translation, which places emphasis on the translator’s own personal bias often as a way to point out shortcomings in their work. When translating news in this polarized internet age, the admission of such a bias is used for a totally different purpose: to ensure your work is on-message; in fitting with the outlet’s “personality”.
While this comes as no surprise – almost every news channel or newspaper is now infamous for their political agenda – it was nevertheless interesting to work within this framework. News translations come with certain expectations, and translators need to abide by specific guidelines, often limiting the scope of how one can represent the text. This also means that, strictly speaking, it is hard to call this work translation. It is more akin to adaptation – summarizing news articles from one language into another, while adding or removing content to fit the desired narrative. This is an important lesson to learn – every act of translation will be affected by reader or client anticipations for how the text “ought” to look. Translating for a news website allows you to see this with vivid clarity.
I may be exaggerating their bias a bit, as I myself am a voracious consumer of news who might also be overly sensitive to biases. However, I would argue that it is better to think too much about it than too little, seeing that when writing the news, your work represents a whole institution, and therefore needs to satisfy a loyal readership.
Despite their obvious political leanings, Taiwan News is quite rigorous when it comes to accuracy and using reliable sources. The pressure to do so when you are an information provider is immense, as your very public reputation relies on it. This principle can just as easily be applied to us translators: every act of translation is a sharing of information, and so our standards should be equally high.
As a learning experience, this internship was an eye-opener, especially in terms of how content is filtered differently during translation or adaptation than anything else. Halfway through my time at Taiwan News, I caught myself imposing the company’s bias on my work without thinking. It was a wake-up call to see how quickly certain thought patterns become deeply embedded in our minds, and a strong reminder that an open mind is key to producing a fairer translation.