Behind The Scenes

ESPN Deportes’ Hernandez on translating Guillen news conference

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On a daily basis, ESPN’s vast resources are utilized in ways the average viewer doesn’t even think about. On Tuesday morning, those resources were tapped in a very large and visible way as the network delivered on one of its company focuses: serving US Hispanic sports fans.

With Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen holding a news conference to apologize for his recent comments in Time magazine, where he expressed admiration for Cuban leader Fidel Castro, ESPN enlisted the help of ESPN Deportes personality Jose Hernandez.

Guillen conducted most of his news conference in Spanish. With short notice, Hernandez jumped right in and was able to provide real-time translation for SportsCenter viewers, with anchor Hannah Storm helping to clarify points and offering background.

In addition, ESPN’s Miami-born, Cuban American Pedro Gomez was on-site reporting from Marlins Stadium in Miami. ESPN had cameras to show both the inside of the news conference and outside the stadium, where a crowd watched Guillen on a large video screen.

Front Row spoke with both Jose and Pedro to help better understand ESPN’s coverage and its emphasis on the bilingual presentation.

Jose Hernandez

Jose Hernandez
How long in advance did you hear you’d be providing the Spanish-to-English translation for SportsCenter?
I heard for the first time [Monday] night around 6:30 p.m. I started getting ready for it. I kind of knew what was going on, but I knew I had to do a little bit more preparation to get all the details for the topic.

How often have you provided translations on TV?
That was my first time.

What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was trying to make sense, trying to understand in Spanish and make sense in English. It’s not that easy, it’s very difficult. You can miss a lot in translation, which is what Ozzie Guillen claimed happened to him. But the toughest part this time was trying to listen to the questions in Spanish because [the quality of] the audio was so bad. I couldn’t hear the questions.

Did you get a lot of reaction in Social Media?
Some good friends at work. My family in Miami actually saw the whole thing. My mom was actually praying for me. She wanted to make sure that I didn’t screw up. It’s a very touchy issue in South Florida. She wanted to make sure I would be OK doing the whole thing.

What did she say when you were done?
She said, ‘I’m proud of you.’

Pedro Gomez

Pedro Gomez
Describe the mood at the Guillen news conference.
The mood was fascinating. This is a very politically-charged community where interest in politics is equal to — if not greater than — the love of baseball. There were 25 cameras, about 15 of which were Spanish-language media. The questions were sharply aimed at Guillen.

How would you assess Guillen at the news conference?
I’ve been covering Ozzie for 20 years. We all know Ozzie will say anything. To see him as a person who was begging for forgiveness is absolutely a 180-degree turn from the character we know him as; to see him humbled and begging — at one point literally begging, saying he was on his knees asking for forgiveness. This is someone who has never backed down from anything.

How is the role of the reporter different when there is a language barrier?
It’s different. For instance, take the New Orleans Saints’ bounty hunting story – the reporter is there to report. It’s in English. You don’t have to translate what is happening or what’s being said. The first 12 minutes of Ozzie’s news conference, and I’d say close to 70 percent of it in total, was in Spanish. I was furiously writing my notes down so I could go on SportsCenter and explain what’s happening to the public. It makes it challenging, but it’s that kind of challenge that you want. You want to be part of a story that important.

Gabriela Nunez, Ardi Dwornik, David Scott and Jessica Gonzalez also contributed to this story.

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