Talking newspaper calls for more volunteers to record Stevenage and North Herts news

PUBLISHED: 15:23 27 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:23 27 October 2020

Volunteers for the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper met up to do their recordings over Zoom. Picture: Talking Newspaper

Volunteers for the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper met up to do their recordings over Zoom. Picture: Talking Newspaper

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The Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper is calling for more volunteers and listeners as it celebrates its two-year anniversary.

The recording equipment used by the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper. Picture: Talking NewspaperThe recording equipment used by the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper. Picture: Talking Newspaper

Each week a group of volunteers come together to record articles from the Comet and Royston Crow for residents of Baldock, Hitchin, Letchworth, Royston and Stevenage who are blind or visually impaired.

As the volunteers have been able to record their articles virtually, they are able to continue providing this service despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chairman Ian Hanks said: “The way that we operate has meant that we can carry on because we get together once a week and have readers sit around a table and record the news through microphones.

“We tried to modernise it a while ago so we record remotely with a panel of nine readers. Every Monday we ask them over WhatsApp whether they’re available to read that week.

The recording equipment used by the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper. Picture: Talking NewspaperThe recording equipment used by the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper. Picture: Talking Newspaper

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“We decided that we’d try to do that because people are vulnerable enough as it is, and during the pandemic it’s doubly so.”

For each talking newspaper, the volunteers read a selection of news articles and some reader’s letters. They also include recordings from a variety of weekly and monthly magazines, which they download under licence from the RNIB, overall producing around 45 hours of local news and hours of magazine content.

The recordings are copied onto USB flash drives and distributed by post to around 50 listeners on Fridays, usually arriving on Saturdays.

The recording equipment used by the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper. Picture: Talking NewspaperThe recording equipment used by the Stevenage and North Herts Talking Newspaper. Picture: Talking Newspaper

The talking newspaper was formed following an article in the Comet two and a half years ago calling for volunteers, and they made their first recording in October 2018.

Now the group wants to make sure they are reaching out to anybody with a visual impairment who is interested in listening to local news.

Ian said: “We’d like to reach out to more people because we’re concerned not everyone knows about us. Macular degeneration [loss of eyesight] is on the rise.”

The talking newspaper is also looking for more volunteers to read the news. If you are interested in volunteering, or if you know someone who may want to sign up to listen, contact Ian at ianrhanks@gmail.com or by calling 07981 442341,


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