NEWS, NATIONALISM, AND THEIMAGINED COMMUNITYThe case of bilingual journalism in Spain
Seth C. Lewis
This study explores the processes of, motivations for, and market consequences of bilingual journalism in Spain, and considers this phenomenon in the context of linguistics, identity, and theorizing about nationhood. Based on newsroom observation and interviews with journalists at newspapers in Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia, this article develops a framework of production, content, and tailored bilingualism for understanding the operations of this fledglingform of journalism. Moreover, against the backdrop of local nationalism, ethno-linguistic identity,and advocacy journalism, this study posits that a modulated approach to Anderson’s (1983)concept of ‘‘imagined communities’’ might begin to explain the rise of bilingual journalism incertain regions of Spain. Newspaper editors there have imagined language communities
niche‘‘nations’’ of readers with whom they feel a special kinship and for whom they feel a moral obligation to preserve the ethnic language. This ‘‘public service’’ comes at a heavy cost: Ananalysis of circulation data demonstrates that the most aggressive bilingual journalism has failed to attract wide readership, calling into question the very essence of the editors’ imagined communities and their efforts to serve them. Finally, this paper considers the Spanish case in thewider context of global media trends.
KEYWORDS bilingual; imagined communities; journalism; language; nation; Spain
Positioned at the nexus of news and nationhood, linguistics and identity, this studydeals with bilingual journalism
defined here as sustained and significant mixing of languages in news products to reach a minority-language market within a larger (oftenmajority-bilingual) population. Perhaps the world’s most distinct example of bilingual journalism is that occurring in Spain’s autonomous regions of Catalonia, the BasqueCountry, and Galicia. This ‘‘bilingual belt’’ stretches the width of the Iberian Peninsula, fromGalicia on the Atlantic coast to the Basque region bordering the Pyrenees and France, toCatalonia on the Mediterranean (see Figure 1). In these regions, many newspapers employa combination of Spanish
and the local language (Catalan, Basque, and Galician).
Somepapers blend different-language stories on the front page, others sprinkle bits of theminority language throughout the paper, and still others switch languages withinindividual news stories (Lewis, 2006). This paper explores this phenomenon, seekingboth to describe the case of bilingual journalism
its forms and functions, its actors andintentions, and its success or failure in attracting an audience
and analyze it within thecontext of Spain and contemporary theories on nationalism.In Spain, bilingual journalism has arisen out of a confluence of changing political,cultural, and journalistic forces, not to mention the emergence of new translation
Journalism Studies, Vol. 9, No 3, 2008
ISSN 1461-670X print/1469-9699 online/08/030409-20
2008 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/14616700801999212