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ATA and the National Media: Association Becomes Recognized Authority on Translation Issues

By Kevin S. Hendzel

The following comments were presented by Kevin S. Hendzel, co-chair of ATA's Public Relations Committee, during ATA's 45th Annual Conference in Toronto last November.

Last year in Phoenix I stood before you to share the good news: ATA had made it to the media big leagues. We had delivered the ATA name into 40 million homes. We had just come off a year where we were repeatedly interviewed live on national television and radio and been quoted in hundreds of newspapers, wire service stories, and websites. We even made it into the Internet blogs, the ultimate sign of geek cool. We were quoted on the mastheads of dozens of influential newspapers.

My message to you today is this: It just keeps getting better.

We have now reached a critical mass in our public relations mission in the national and international media. Journalists, TV producers, and anchors with all the major television and radio networks contact us first when translation issues arise. They seek us out as authorities. We are on a first-name basis with reporters from The New York Times , The Washington Post , USA Today , The Wall Street Journal , Reuters, LA Times , Houston Chronicle , The Atlanta Constitution , and many other newspapers. We continue to appear on national network television, including the CBS Evening News, CNN, CNN International, FoxNewsLive, NBC News, and National Public Radio. Newspapers from Beirut to Paris to Tokyo cite ATA as the authoritative source in translation.

ATA PR Committee members, who are translators and interpreters just like you, brief reporters, producers, and journalists an average of three times a week throughout the year. We sometimes do this for attribution, sometimes for information, sometimes for background. One way or the other, ATA is part of the story. And when reporters call, everything else stops. That translation you were doing on deadline? Sorry, it's gotta wait. That meeting you had scheduled? It is cancelled when The New York Times calls. That party you planned? Well, it will go on without you. The media is a demanding taskmaster. If you think we have crazy deadlines, you should see theirs. I did an interview with NBC TV two weeks ago that wrapped up at 4:40 and was then edited, remixed, and incorporated for national broadcast by 7:00 that evening.

Why is this important to you? Or to put it more bluntly, why should you care?

Simple. If you want more work in this industry, if you want to earn better rates, if you want to have professional recognition, the public must know you exist. They must know you are necessary. They must know you are worth the money you charge. They must know that they are in very deep and serious trouble without you. These are our talking points. This is what we tell the media. Endlessly. Over and over and over.

The way to think of ATA public relations is that we are communicating with the clients you don't have yet. We are communicating with the clients you are going to have tomorrow. You need these clients. These are the clients we drive to ATA's website; the clients who didn't know translators exist (the ones who think all translation is done by software). These are clients who are surprised to find that there is an American Translators Association. These are clients that, five years ago, would have been lost to you. The media provides us access to these clients. The media also provides us access to decision-makers who influence public policy. It's why senators rise on the floor of the U.S. Senate and demand to know why professional translators are not being hired by the federal government. How do we know they got this idea from ATA? Because they say so. They cite ATA on national television as the authoritative source.

The ATA is an association of, by, and about professional translators and interpreters. It is an association of practitioners. Only translators and interpreters vote. Only translators and interpreters hold office. Only translators and interpreters determine the direction of the association. How can it be that the association of practitioners-the translators and interpreters themselves-has the premier national reputation in the media, government, and industry? How crazy is that? In how many industries do the practitioners get cited rather than the big, influential companies in that industry? When was the last time you saw Microsoft tell the media, "it's not important what we think, ask our programmers what they think." That's the reality of what ATA has accomplished. The national media, government, and industry care about what translators and interpreters think. They care what all of you think. How great is that?

The people you have to thank for this are seated in front of you today. They took a risk on an idea that a group of activists came up with, and backed us with unwavering confidence, recognition, and goodwill. This was an act of remarkable trust-allowing a group to speak on behalf of the association to millions of people to promote the best interests of the members. The group they entrusted with this mission consists of very special and talented translators and interpreters, including my own personal hero, Gode Medal winner, journalist, and financial translator extraordinaire, Chris Durban, who has done more for translation than anybody since Saint Jerome. Contributing remarkable talent, enthusiasm, creativity, and hard work are Lillian Clementi, Amanda Ennis, Alexandra Russell-Bitting, Neil Inglis, Rina Ne'eman, Rudy Heller, Isabel Framer, and Cindy Roat.

None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support and enthusiastic backing of ATA President Scott Brennan, ATA President-elect Marian Greenfield, and the rest of ATA's Board of Directors. It's been a great start. We've only just begun.

Press Coverage (excluding national coverage of the Phoenix conference)

November 18, 2003
The Associated Press
"Lack of Arabic Speakers Hurts U.S. Around the World," by Darlene Superville
Also appeared in:
Chattanooga Times Free Press
The Miami Herald

November 19, 2003
Detroit News
"Translators Ease Barriers: An Influx of Foreign Students Sparks Need," by Margarita Bauza

November 19, 2003
Detroit Metro News
"Euro Intoxication," by Lisa M. Collins

November 19, 2003
The Bulletin's Frontrunner
"U.S. Intelligence Agencies, Military Still Suffering Shortage of Arabic Speakers," by Bulletin staff

November 20, 2003
The Washington Post
"Woman Hopes Cards Translate into Success; Entrepreneur Greets Holidays in 40 Languages," by Sabrina Jones

December 1, 2003
Marine Corps Times
"Frontlines," by Denise Gould

December 12, 2003
Voice Of America
"Arabic Translator Shortage," by Andrew Baroch

December 19, 2003
The Associated Press
"Pentagon Relies on Contractors to Fill Void for Interpreters," by Sarah Coffey

December 20, 2003
CBS Evening News
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy has Cost Military Valuable Soldiers," by Anthony Mason and Joie Chen

December 21, 2003
Buffalo News
"Translator Talks the Talk," by Louise Continelli

December 27, 2003
Syndicated columnist Bill Tammeus' article, "Meaningful Quotes of '03," ran in several papers:
Kansas City Star
Akron Beach Journal
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
Duluth News-Tribune
Contra Costa Times
The Miami Herald

February 1, 2004
Hartford Courant
"Arabic Instruction Catches on Slowly," by Penelope Overton

February 4, 2004
The Progressive
"Lost In Translation"

February 16, 2004
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
"Starting the Conversation," by Robin Flanigan

March 8, 2004
Decision Times
"Speaking Up; Demand for Translators and Interpreters Makes Your Foreign Language Skills Valuable," by Tranette Ledford

March 18, 2004
Austin American-Statesman
"Freedom of Ideas," by Scott Sexton

April 4, 2004
L.A. Magazine
"Found in Translation," by Tamar Brott

May 7, 2004
The New York Times
"The Struggle For Iraq; Civilian Employees, Contractors in Sensitive Roles, Unchecked," by Joel Brinkley
Also appeared in:
Houston Chronicle
The International Herald Tribune

May 14, 2004
The Associated Press
"Small Businesses Translate Growing Language Barrier into Profits," by Chet Dembeck
Also appeared in:
The Daily Record

May 20, 2004
The Washington Post
"Iraq War Strains Business," by Renae Merle

May 21, 2004
The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Many Iraq Interpreters Unskilled, Soldier's Say," by David Washburn

May 23, 2004
The New York Times
"The Reach of War: Suspect Translator Questioned By Army In Iraq Abuse," by Joel Brinkley

July 8, 2004
The Associated Press
"Globalization Translates Into Success For Language Entrepreneur," by David Dishneau

July 26, 2004
Houston Chronicle
"Speakers Needed: U.S. National Security Desperately Requires Skilled Interpreters in Middle Eastern Languages," by Houston Chronicle staff

September 19, 2004
The Roanoke Times
"Open To Interpretation? Courtroom Jobs Fill Niche," by Rachel Jackson

September 24, 2004
Naperville Sun
"Nothing But the Truth," by Kristophere Owens

October 2, 2004
Fresno Bee
"Interpreting Industry Grows With Interpretation," by Robert Rodrigue