Why Are the English Versions of El Nuevo Día’s Stories so Painful to Read?

Nov 20, 2018
10:12 AM

“In the English language, it all comes down to this: Twenty-six letters, when combined correctly, can create magic. Twenty-six letters form the foundation of a free, informed society.” ― John Grogan

Listen, we will keep this one simple: we applaud Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Día newspaper for making the smart move to publish English versions of their Spanish-language stories. From a strategic standpoint, it makes a lot of sense: interest in Puerto Rico has indeed increased, especially after Hurricane María struck the island in September of 2017. Add the fact that more and more Puerto Ricans live outside the island than those who live on the island, and you can’t fault ENDI for trying to increase its audience and reach.

However, there’s a huge difference between making a smart decision and successfully executing on that decision. Unfortunately for ENDI, the vast majority of English versions it publishes are almost embarrassing. They are hard to read, at times confusing. In the end, a reader is left wondering: who is creating these versions and are they even being edited?

Here are just a few examples of what we mean. Problems in usage, word choice, factual references, mechanics, grammar, and (wait for it) just bad writing in English. The following are excerpts from ENDI’s English section:

Latest headline from November 20: “Democrats propose Trump to legislate safeguards”

The first sentence of a November 20 editorial about the California wildfires: “With several areas being devoured by the fire, today, Californians need all the solidarity, particularly from Puerto Rico that has suffered the effects of climate change.”

The lede of a November 19 editorial: “New attempts from the US Department of Justice to impose the death penalty in Puerto Rico lead us to reaffirm our firm opposition to this punishment contrary to the fundamental right to life. Institutionalizing death as a penalty reflects the inability of the entities responsible for doing justice, to defeat crime in a civilized way. A real rehabilitation opportunity dismantles recurrence.”

From a “No Medicaid funds for inmates” story: “‘Inmates apply to us (ASES) once they leave the correctional system,’ said Ávila and explain that ASES contribution would be limited to help them prepare a proposal to request funding from the federal government’s correctional health care program. Raúl Villalobos, president of Physician, had expressed that he planned to generate more than $2 million in savings by replacing part of the inmates medical coverage with Medicaid funds. ‘We have an opinion that, once we have an inmate more than 24 hours in a hospital, he can qualify for those funds,’ said Villalobos in a recent interview.

The lede of a Nomiki Konst story: “Washington – After being investigating conflicts of interest and, in the case of Puerto Rico, the ‘disaster capitalism’ after Hurricane Maria, journalist and activist Nomiki Konst thinks it is natural to aspire to be the New York City’s public advocate.”

A story about a Puerto Rico statehood bill: “Washington – Commissioner Jenniffer González pro-statehood bill may have been shelved yesterday within the US House Committee of Natural Resources, it has never been on the Senate´s agenda. Rob Bishop (Utah) opened the last 2018 House Committee on Natural Resource markup –to consider 8 bipartisan bills- by announcing that it was going to be his last hearing as chair of that Committee.”

Actual headline for a story: “Restoration of Roads after María will take long”

Or what about this sub-headline? “Two-third of voters say the voted thinking on Trump’s vision”

Or what about this one? “The El Nuevo Día Survey reveals a dangerous climate of indifference and citizen apathy towards public function in Puerto Rico”

These two sentences made us cringe: “Inaction and demagogy have distanced the political class from the people, who respond with disenchantment. It is necessary to reverse this apathy with real results.”

From a story about unions suing the government of Puerto Rico: “They argue that both the governor and the Board have failed in their fiduciary duty to safeguard hundreds of millions of dollars in pensions contributions of thousands of teachers and public employees.”

Another editorial about the midterm elections and women: “The new generation of women, many young one, elected in the last US midterm elections show attributes that, initially, contrast with the political dynamics that have the nation in turmoil today.Many come from social activism, representatives of minorities among minorities, these women made their way with determination, sensitivity and commitment to transparency principles and respect for citizens. Time and their actions will tell if they will be able to make real and deep changes in dynamics and results from state and federal government spheres.”

And so on and so on and so on.

Overall, Latino Rebels reviewed several articles published in the last two weeks. The examples listed above are the more obvious problems, but overall, the tone of the pieces read more like what they appear to be: bad translations with little regard for naturally sounding and journalistically solid English. The overall English voice, in our opinion, reads more like 19th-century or early 20th-century newspaper. It just doesn’t read right, and as a group known to consume and read a lot of stories out of Puerto Rico (both in Spanish and English), it does disappoint us to see the island’s most notable newspaper failing to raise the bar in how it develops English stories.

“There is no excuse. All of the owners of El Nuevo Día speak the King’s English,” said veteran journalist Susanne Ramirez de Arellano, a Latino Rebels contributor and former news director at Univision Puerto Rico. “What, they don’t read their own paper? What would Katherine Graham have said had she opened up The Washington Post and seen such sloppiness? I mean, El Nuevo Día is the equivalent. It is outrageous. It’s a disservice to the people of Puerto Rico and to the craft of journalism itself. Period.”

You would think that in 2018, ENDI would find experienced bilingual editors and journalists who know how to navigate communication and journalism in both languages. Apparently, the memo hasn’t reached GFR Media, ENDI’s parent company.

Latino Rebels did reach out to ENDI for comment about how it produces its English versions and why they are so hard to read. As of this posting, we still haven’t heard back from them, but if and when we do, we will share their response.

Meanwhile, we will stick to reading our ENDI stories in Spanish. At least we can understand those.