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SCOPE

New Spanish-English monthly publication strives 'to point out a positive image of the Hispanic community.'

January 28, 1988|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

There is nothing especially ethnic about the Publish Now office. Long Beach Centennial posters hang from the walls and the tidy desks are topped by MacIntosh and IBM personal computers. The only things Spanish are the romantic ballads of Radio Amor, which waft through the room, and the product put out each month: Long Beach's new, and only, Spanish-English publication.

Meet Ruben and Carlos Duran, the editors of OLA, Onda LatinoAmericana, or "Latin American Wave."

The Durans are businessmen. As owners of a downtown publishing and graphics firm on Long Beach Boulevard, they are interested in making a profit and promoting their city. But the two brothers, sons of Mexican immigrants, have something else they want to promote: Latinos.

"We want to point out a positive image of the Hispanic community," Ruben Duran, 45, said.

While other ethnic groups in Long Beach have long produced publications in their native tongues, local Latinos have had to rely on Los Angeles for Spanish-language newspapers. The Durans' Publish Now, a 1 1/2-year-old firm, is changing that.

Last week, the fourth edition of OLA hit the freebie newspaper racks, with 15,000 copies distributed throughout Long Beach and parts of Bellflower, Carson, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood and Wilmington. About 5,000 copies of the monthly publication are mailed directly to Latino homeowners and businesses.

David D. Dominguez, president of the Hispanic Business Assn. and a friend of the Durans, has contributed several articles to the cause. "I think it's a very valuable addition to the community," Dominguez said. "Without question, they are filling a gap."

The operation is mostly "a two-man show," said Carlos Duran, 40. "The bathroom at home becomes a darkroom," friends are sought to contribute articles, and the tedious job of translating for the bilingual publication is shared, he said.

The stories range from features on local jazz giant Poncho Sanchez and reviews of restaurants owned by Latinos to news announcements on Latino school board candidates.

Eventually, the Durans would like to expand their staff, which now includes a paid entertainment writer and a salesman, and someday turn the newspaper-style tabloid into a slick monthly magazine.

That is why they do not refer to the tabloid as a newspaper, but as a magazine. A large photo or graphic regularly fills the cover, while an assortment of mini-headlines tip readers to what is inside.

"In our minds, we're gearing ourselves. We are a monthly magazine--although it's printed in newsprint," Carlos Duran said.

The publication started out as an entertainment insert to Horizontes, a Spanish tabloid distributed in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles County and Orange County. But the Durans quickly learned that a ripe new market lay before them: local businesses could attract clients by advertising in Long Beach, not outside. So after five issues as a supplement, OLA went solo.

Right now, the Durans say their publication is breaking even. OLA has gone from 12 to 16 pages and its advertising has increased fourfold since its first edition, the brothers said.

Noting the increase in the country's Latino population--particularly in California--Ruben Duran considers it to be an increasingly "hot market" for new efforts. Eventually, the Durans say they would like to turn their publishing firm into an advertising agency. They would continue to market the tabloid, but hire a journalist as editor.

In the meantime, the brothers are heavily involved in all aspects of production while promoting Latino events, such as a mariachi festival they are helping to organize. They also are Centennial sponsors and members of various business groups. Before going into business for themselves locally the brothers worked in other California cities for various typesetting and publishing companies.

Editorially, OLA has, for the most part, stayed away from controversial issues. However, the publication has carried articles on two of the four Latinos running for the Long Beach Unified School District board. In the last issue, one of the Latino school board candidates--Jerome Torres, who is also listed as a contributing writer--delivered the publication's first editorial.

In a column headlined "Let's All Vote," Torres urged readers to support Latino candidates: himself in District 3 and Roberto Uranga in District 2. (Torres did not mention that at least one other Latino is planning to run for school board: Jenny Oropeza in District 3.)

Ruben Duran said he used Torres' column because "we just didn't have time to write editorials." He plans to ask the other two Latino candidates to write editorials for future editions.

Ruben Duran said he would like to influence public opinion through more editorials. And his brother also wants to write more stories on issues affecting the Latino community.

"We've been so involved with the marketing end of it, we haven't solidified our thoughts in terms of overall vision" of what the publication should be, the older Duran said.

But the brothers do not see their product as an advocacy journal, believing that--as Carlos Duran explained it--"advocacy connotes militancy." Instead, what they want to convey, Ruben Duran said, is "excellence in Hispanics."

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