Panel 13: News translation: subverting the discipline? (Luc van Doorslaer, Christina Schäffner)

Scholarly publications on news translation often study materials where interlingual translation is only one of the aspects involved, next to intralingual translation, rewriting, reformulation, localization, adaptation, recontextualization etc. The position where one source text (e.g. a telex message from a news agency) including its source text situation is dispersed and results in several target texts and target text situations is generally recognized as a situation that is typical of translation in a journalistic setting (e.g. in newsrooms). In quite a lot of cases, it is hardly feasible to reconstruct the exact text production process, including the translation process.

However, translation in journalistic environments can also be characterized by a multi-source situation. When aiming at the production of one single (new or partly new) journalistic text, journalists will base that article on several earlier news items, on information and feedback from experts, and possibly also on other national and international coverage on the topic. In one way or another, translation is involved here too. But what are we supposed to do with it as a researcher? Such real life situations make ‘news translation’ not only a potentially fuzzy concept for research, it also has consequences for the borderlines of the discipline, i.e. for the objects of study. Jakobson’s categories of intralingual and intersemiotic translation are generally considered as being very prolific for the study of translation. In news translation, however, they often create uncertainty about the limits of translation.

News translation has only recently been given more attention within Translation Studies, and this attention has often been combined with questioning whether ‘translation’ is indeed an appropriate label to describe the complexity and the nature of the processes involved. This kind of approach clearly has potential for interdisciplinary research.

The following questions will be addressed in the panel:

  • News translation reality often shows very unclear source text-target text situations. Do we have methodologies to cope with that?
  • How far can we go in studying the news translation (or news production) process before leaving the ‘territory’ of Translation Studies?
  •  Where is the point where we start entering other fields, like Adaptation Studies, Localization, even Communication Studies? Do we have to worry about that?
  • How desirable are unclear borderlines for a discipline? Do we prefer to call them ‘flexible’ or rather ‘fuzzy’?
  • To what extent can these questions be considered of existential importance for the discipline of Translation Studies?
  • What is the connection and/or overlap of (sub)disciplines and interdisciplinarity?