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Two Stations Bridge Cultural Gaps With Bilingual Reporting


In Central Washington, two public radio stations, Northwest Public Radio (NWPR) and KDNA, have started a new initiative to bridge the cultural and linguistic gaps between communities. The motivation is straightforward: public radio station NWPR has partnered with Spanish-language radio station KDNA to create and share content for broadcast. Combining reporting and digital services teams between stations, this partnership is tackling the issues of their respective communities, bilingually.

John Paxson, the news director for NWPR, describes the project as "a new kind of journalism that involves two radio stations and two bilingual reporters that will effortlessly transition between languages and communities to bring attention to local news in the communities they serve." The Washington-based stations anticipate this project will give public radio listeners and policymakers alike the opportunity to cross-culturally understand issues that affect all communities across the state. As our nation continues to expand with non-English speaking populations, bilingual reporting is becoming more important to reach these new audiences. By adding diverse perspectives in dialogue, the local reporting initiative will help to build community and celebrate identity among public radio audiences.

The bilingual reporting project began last year with a generous grant from the Knight Foundation followed by a matching grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation. The two foundations set out to bring community issues into focus through public broadcasting.

Michael Morales, Director of Community Engagement for the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, hopes the new initiative will "improve overall civic engagement and community awareness between monolingual Spanish and English speakers in the region." At the center of the project is strengthening connections and forging new ones, as these interest groups utilize traditional media reporting to provide a bilingual perspective to issues of local and national significance. In an effort to share stories across intergenerational communities, the partnership will also develop a mobile-ready application to make the bilingual reporting digitally accessible.

Reporter Rowan Gerety will be providing bilingual coverage for both stations.
Picasa / NPR
Reporter Rowan Gerety will be providing bilingual coverage for both stations.

KDNA is the only full-time educational Spanish language radio station that focuses its efforts on minority communities in the agricultural community of the Yakima Valley. NWPR is a multi-station network serving Washington and portions of Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. Primarily broadcasting NPR news and classical programming in English, NWPR's extensive signal coverage can be heard by more than 3.6 million residents in the region.

With the diversity of their audiences, Morales points out how both stations will benefit: "the lack of resources should not prevent the Spanish speaking communities from benefiting from traditional media reporting on issues of contention to their community. On the other hand, NWPR lacks the capacity to engage and develop stories within the Latino community that are important for all audiences to benefit from." A previous void of opportunity has prevented non-English speaking communities from accessing information critical to their daily lives presented by media reporting in English. This project is significant for the fact that it presents both digital and traditional broadcast platforms for all audiences to access local news programming in their language of choice.

The bilingual reporting project between KDNA and NWPR was established to create a strong multilingual voice that both empowers and engages communities in Washington through local news coverage. At the cornerstone of the reporting project is the need to protect and honor all forms of cultural diversity. In a society where residents of the same state can be so drastically separated by communal identity, the bilingual reporting project will help to tighten gaps in understanding what we do not know about languages and cultures different from our own.

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Jenna Price