By The Republic Staff and Wire Reports

INDIANAPOLIS— At least five Spanish-language or bilingual publications are competing for readers in central Indiana, where the Hispanic population has almost tripled in the past decade.

Costs have limited the frequency of publication to only once or twice a month, but increasing numbers of readers and advertisers eventually could lead to a weekly newspaper.

“Whoever makes the jump (to a weekly) is going to be the one that’s around, and the rest of them will be dinosaurs,” said Kirk Whisler of the National Association of Hispanic Publications. “Ultimately, there will only be one very viable or two quasi-viable publications.”

At a recent symposium on Spanish publications in Franklin, Columbus’ free, monthly La Prensa was touted as one of the only publications, thus far, to focus on local information.

“With an estimated 5,000 Spanish-speaking residents in Bartholomew County, we never run out of interesting local news to cover,” said Editor Angelia Haro.

La Prensa is available in Bartholomew County at 40 locations, including factories, Latino food stores, libraries, English as a second language programs, restaurants and churches. The 3,500-circulation paper also is distributed through locations in Seymour and Jennings County Public Library in North Vernon.

There has been no second thought involved in advertising in La Prensa, said Bill Beitler, marketing director for Irwin Union Bank of Columbus.

“It has kick-started us to get ourselves moving to make ourselves available to the entire community,” he said. “More Spanish speakers are coming in, according to sales people.”

Lana Alcozer is director of La Voz de Indiana, which has been publishing twice a month for the past 2½ years and recently has been promising readers weekly publication.

“We’re so close,” she said. “There are so many things that go on in the 14 days from print to print.”

The Hispanic population rose 294 percent to 33,290 in just Marion County from 1990 to 2000. Several editors said they would love to publish more regularly, but for now, the papers have settled into niches, catering to bilingual readers, those who want news from Latin America or to long-standing residents more interested in local news.

Ricardo Herrera, editor of USA Latinos, said that by the end of the year, he hopes to shift his paper’s focus from South America to Marion County. He also hopes to double the paper’s circulation, to 20,000.

“I’ve lived here for three years,” Herrera said. “I cannot know all there is to know about Indianapolis and the United States, yet.”

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