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‘Representation is so important’: IndyStar’s first Spanish-language newsletter, one month in

Indianapolis Star reporter Natalia Contreras and her editor Daniela Franco Brown began translating and editing stories in Spanish earlier this year as a way to serve the growing Spanish-speaking population in Central Indiana. This initiative led to the launch of La Estrella — IndyStar’s first newsletter in Spanish. 

We reached out to Contreras by email to find out how the newsletter has evolved in its first month, what the response has been, and her advice for journalists seeking to offer coverage in multiple languages.

Since La Estrella launched, what have been some of the highlights? What about the challenges?

Contreras: We had more than 700 subscribers to the newsletter by the time we launched our second edition so we’re still working to get the word out to as many people as possible. I have been attending events and talking to people about La Estrella to get the community familiar with it. This is the first time the Star commits to covering the Indianapolis Latino community in this way, so getting Latinos familiar with who we are and what we do as a news organization is still the biggest challenge right now.

How has the response been so far? 

Contreras: Latino leaders in the community and La Estrella subscribers reach out every week congratulating us, asking for more details, and thanking us for making the effort to share important news and information in Spanish. Those messages validate our efforts and it reminds us that there is a demand for this resource. 

What is your process for determining which stories will best serve La Estrella’s audience?

Contreras: We’re still going through a public health crisis, so stories related to COVID-19, schools reopening, news related to unemployment and transportation, resources available and community events are all helpful. What really makes a difference is having us, Latina journalists doing the work, because we understand the culture and what matters to us. That’s why representation is so important. Newsrooms everywhere should be hiring more Latinos and putting Latinos in leadership roles to champion these types of efforts.

What are some of the main themes of your reporting right now? What are your plans for election coverage?

Contreras: I want to keep my community informed but I also want to share the stories, experiences and contributions of Latinos living in Central Indiana. And for elections we’re focusing on issues that matter to Latinos locally. I am also working on interviewing Latinos who recently became U.S. citizens and will be voting for the first time. 

How has La Estrella affected community building at IndyStar?

Contreras: La Estrella is aiming to reach Latinos but there are still other communities we are making an effort to reach. The Star has spent a lot of resources on building our newsletter strategy and it’s working. Our subscribers know that there are real people writing to them every week when they open their inbox. This effort is a good reminder that we have to go out and meet people where they are and provide the information in the way that they need it. In this case, information in Spanish was the way to go.

What advice do you have for other journalists who wish to offer reporting in multiple languages?

Contreras: If providing information for our communities in their language matters to you, speak up. But also work hard to have the support from your editors. You shouldn’t be doing this on your own. Editors should not expect bilingual journalists to do both the reporting and the translations of everyone’s stories. We’re here to do the reporting and if a newsroom is committed, funds should be allocated to find the tools needed in order to help us do the job. For a few months I was the only one doing the reporting and translating of stories. Now the Star is paying for translators to help out and it’s making a huge difference. We’re able to provide more and original content to our audience every week. But we have to make the effort to ask for help and resources from our editors.

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