Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


A Syrian boy waits with his uncle, right, near the body of his father, who was killed by a shell in Sha'ar. (PHOTO: NICOLE TUNG/SYRIA DEEPLY)

A Syrian boy waits with his uncle, right, near the body of his father, who was killed by a shell in Sha'ar. (PHOTO: NICOLE TUNG/SYRIA DEEPLY)

Translation Studies: The News in English, Spanish, Russian, Arabic

• February 21, 2013 • 7:43 AM

A Syrian boy waits with his uncle, right, near the body of his father, who was killed by a shell in Sha'ar. (PHOTO: NICOLE TUNG/SYRIA DEEPLY)

Documentary experiment Syria Deeply, “exploring a new model of storytelling around a global crisis,” has been conducting a fascinating series of interviews with members of the international media covering a nearly two year-long conflict. For anyone interested in translation and public communication, the interviews have evolved into a portrait of how reality can change depending on the number of translators needed to access it.

Some excerpts:

Nicole Tung, American photographer, describes gaining trust in a rebel hospital as a foreigner:

ND: How did you know that this hospital was the place to be?

NT: I knew it existed because the activists talked about it; everyone who got injured, whether they were Free Syrian Army or civilian, was treated here. A lot of the doctors had fled but those spaces were filled by volunteer doctors, either from the countryside or doctors from Aleppo who were very pro-revolution.

ND: Did the workers there view you with suspicion, as they do so many journalists?

NT: At first they were very skeptical of having me around. Many of the doctors and nurses were still working for a living in government-controlled areas and they viewed the cameras with suspicion. They didn’t want us to expose that they were helping and treating the opposition. But a lot of them were very warm, very open, very hospitable people.

Jenan Moussa, Dubai-based television correspondent, on cultural familiarity:

ND: You work for an Arabic television channel. Some of the Western outlets are worried about safety and won’t let their correspondents back in. What’s been the difference in coverage and experience in working for an Arab company?

JM: Western media right now is totally interested in covering the Islamist groups. But with Arabic media, there’s less emphasis on the radical elements. The coverage will be more focused on the humanitarian crisis, on the people, and less on the military and Islamist fronts. And in the Western media it’s the opposite.

In Western media, safety procedures are much stricter. For Arabic media, we go in, we don’t even have security advisers. Every team from a Western organization has safety advisers and I don’t know what. But [as Arab journalists] we speak the language and we know the people, and we don’t have the danger of being kidnapped as much. It’s safer for us.

640x392_36756_248425

Russia’s RT channel reporting, in English, on the kidnapping of Ukranian journalist Ankhar Kochneva last autumn. Kochneva remains a hostage.

Miriam Elder, correspondent of The Guardian newspaper in Moscow (Russia has backed Syria’s government in the civil war) on world leaders speaking English in countries with non-English speaking audiences:

ND: How many Russians actually pay attention to the state-run Russia Today (RT) channel, to which Assad gave a big interview in November?

ME: None. I mean, it’s an English language channel [which is a barrier.] It’s not really shown anywhere. Some people will watch it online, but it’s not really part of the conversation.

ND: So why would Assad choose to give them an interview?

ME: Their angle is pretty clear. I like watching RT and just sharing what RT is covering, because it’s as close an approximation as you’re going to get in English to what we see here on Russian-language Russian television. In particular, their coverage of Syria has been very similar to their coverage of Egypt, to their coverage of Libya, and now starting with their coverage of Mali, that everything that’s happening is part of some greater Western plot to reshape the world in America’s favor. And that’s a friendly view to what Assad would want to present.

Témoris Grecko, Mexican journalist, on being kidnapped with Hungarian, Spanish and Syrian colleagues:

News Deeply: Describe the events surrounding your kidnapping.

Témoris Grecko: The night before there had been a very heavy fight in a neighborhood of Aleppo called Ezaa; it’s on a hill and has strategic value. The Free Syrian Army had a hard time trying to take it last year. We used to live about a mile or so from this point.

In the morning we went to see what had happened during the night. We were three journalists: a Hungarian, a Spaniard and I, accompanied by a translator and an armed guard in a van. We knew the place and had already been there. We knew the Free Syrian Army commander and several other militants who used to operate there.

So although it’s on the front lines, we considered it relatively safe. We came to a corner where a sofa has been placed outside and it’s usually occupied by insurgents, keeping watch. This time, nobody was there. We found that strange.

Suddenly masked men surrounded us with guns. They probably feared that we could shoot back and they were ready to shoot. The Hungarian and I weren’t beaten, but they beat the Spaniard on the face. They also assaulted our Syrian translator. Then they blindfolded us.

More here.

Marc Herman

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 24 • 8:00 AM

What Do Clowns Think of Clowns?

Three major players weigh in on the current state of the clown.


October 24 • 7:13 AM

There Is No Surge in Illegal Immigration

The overall rate of illegal immigration has actually decreased significantly in the last 10 years. The time is ripe for immigration reform.


October 24 • 6:15 AM

Politicians Really Aren’t Better Decision Makers

Politicians took part in a classic choice experiment but failed to do better than the rest of us.


October 24 • 5:00 AM

Why We Gossip: It’s Really All About Ourselves

New research from the Netherlands finds stories we hear about others help us determine how we’re doing.


October 24 • 2:00 AM

Congratulations, Your City Is Dying!

Don’t take population numbers at face value.


October 23 • 4:00 PM

Of Course Marijuana Addiction Exists

The polarized legalization debate leads to exaggerated claims and denials about pot’s potential harms. The truth lies somewhere in between.


October 23 • 2:00 PM

American Companies Are Getting Way Too Cozy With the National Security Agency

Newly released documents describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as undercover operatives.


October 23 • 12:00 PM

The Man Who’s Quantifying New York City

Noah Davis talks to the proprietor of I Quant NY. His methodology: a little something called “addition.”


October 23 • 11:02 AM

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.


October 23 • 10:00 AM

The Psychology of Bribery and Corruption

An FBI agent offered up confidential information about a political operative’s enemy in exchange for cash—and they both got caught. What were they thinking?


October 23 • 8:00 AM

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

What it means to feel a little excited about the prospect of a horrific event.


October 23 • 7:04 AM

Why Don’t Men Read Romance Novels?

A lot of men just don’t read fiction, and if they do, structural misogyny drives them away from the genre.


October 23 • 6:00 AM

Why Do Americans Pray?

It depends on how you ask.


October 23 • 4:00 AM

Musicians Are Better Multitaskers

New research from Canada finds trained musicians more efficiently switch from one mental task to another.


October 22 • 4:00 PM

The Last Thing the Women’s Movement Needs Is a Heroic Male Takeover

Is the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign helping feminism?


October 22 • 2:00 PM

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.


October 22 • 12:00 PM

Will the End of a Tax Loophole Kill Off Irish Business and Force Google and Apple to Pay Up?

U.S. technology giants have constructed international offices in Dublin in order to take advantage of favorable tax policies that are now changing. But Ireland might have enough other draws to keep them there even when costs climb.


October 22 • 10:00 AM

Veterans in the Ivory Tower

Why there aren’t enough veterans at America’s top schools—and what some people are trying to do to change that.


October 22 • 8:00 AM

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.


October 22 • 7:04 AM

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.


October 22 • 6:00 AM

How We Form Our Routines

Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or a glass of warm milk before bed, we all have our habitual processions. The way they become engrained, though, varies from person to person.


October 22 • 4:00 AM

For Preschoolers, Spite and Smarts Go Together

New research from Germany finds greater cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children.


October 21 • 4:00 PM

Why the Number of Reported Sexual Offenses Is Skyrocketing at Occidental College

When you make it easier to report assault, people will come forward.


October 21 • 2:00 PM

Private Donors Are Supplying Spy Gear to Cops Across the Country Without Any Oversight

There’s little public scrutiny when private donors pay to give police controversial technology and weapons. Sometimes, companies are donors to the same foundations that purchase their products for police.


October 21 • 12:00 PM

How Clever Do You Think Your Dog Is?

Maybe as smart as a four-year-old child?


Follow us


Politicians Really Aren’t Better Decision Makers

Politicians took part in a classic choice experiment but failed to do better than the rest of us.

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you've (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.