2017-10-19 / Opinion


Born Free: Ahead of the Curve Nacido Libre: Adelantándose a la curva

In the upper right-hand corner of this paper are the words, “Born Free.” When founded 45 years ago, Newport This Week began as free paper and remains so today, due to the faithful support of advertisers who make the paper possible. The motto lies at the very root of the principles this paper was founded on and is printed under, each week.

The newspaper industry has drastically changed over the years, as has much of American culture. Many news publications that first charged a nickel, a dime, a quarter, are now charging more than a dollar; more and more people have stopped relying on traditional print news sources and have gone electronic for their news.

We are proud to have been ahead of that curve by offering the talents of journalists, photographers, columnists and letter writers to the community for FREE, from day one. We haven’t gone solely electronic, choosing to continue offering both print and online versions, for some don’t have access to the Internet. Everyone deserves the opportunity, has the right to have access to the news, arts, culture, and trends in their communities.

Once known as “the great melting pot,” America is now more of a salad bowl, with each culture keeping its own distinct qualities while folding itself into the American ideal of acceptance of all.

Over the course of the past couple of centuries, the island has become home to immigrants who relocated here from Portugal, Italy, and Ireland. Most came as laborers, fisherman, and tradesmen. But even earlier than that, Newport’s been ahead of the curve. Beginning as early as 1756, African Americans, both free and enslaved, would elect their own governor. Many of these elections took place in the colonies, but Newport was among the first. The city by the sea is the home of the oldest synagogue in the country.

Indeed, even George Washington was inspired by the diversity of the people he saw on his visit here in 1790, quoting from the Hebrew Congregation of Newport’s letter of welcome to him, “For happily ‘the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,’ requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

Each distinct heritage of our residents is an integral part of the fabric of our community and we embrace them all. We have established Sister Cities with cities similar in economics to Newport’s. There are parades and clubs that all celebrate those homeland roots.

The Newport economy and culture is changing, and has been, slowly, over the years, maybe even for decades, in line with the changes across our country. There are more Spanish speaking people here in our workforce than ever before.

According to national statistics, one out of every ten students in the country is learning to speak English. They are called ELL’s, for “English Language Learners.” According to a Rhode Island NPR report earlier this year, “There are nearly five million ELLs, and educating them in English and all the other subjects and skills they'll need, is one of the biggest challenges in U.S. public education today.”

In order to support Spanish-speaking members of the community who may not have English as their first language, NTW has decided to offer some of its announcements in Spanish, side-by-side with the those in English. Last week, and in this week’s edition on page 5, is where we have positioned this new feature.

Because we believe everyone has the right to know what is going on in their community, we have worked over many months with several community organizations to bring this section to ELL readers. A well-regarded, long-time Newport resident, Elizabeth Fuerte, is assisting us with translation.

For Newport, for the island, this is a bold move. And it is easy to be a naysayer. The first reaction by many may be, “If you’re in America, learn to speak English.”

We believe it’s easier to learn another language when we see it juxtaposed with our own.

Each Thursday, more than 15,000 papers are delivered to 300 locations in the county. With this new feature, we hope to reach even more readers with information about where they live. We hope our readers will welcome this effort to have all the members of our community be more informed, comfortable and enjoying what they now call home.

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