What is a Talking Newspaper ?
A Talking Newspaper (or TN) provides a selection of news from the local press in an audible form, (in our case on a USB Memory Stick and on-line). This is sent out to subscribers on a regular basis. Ours is produced every week.
Who We Are
The first Talking Newspaper in Shropshire was first produced in May 1976 in Shrewsbury; and it served the whole of the county. This was the case for 14 years.
Then, in 1990 it was decided that, due to the size of the county, and the expanding listenership, a better service could be provided by splitting the operation into two. One would cover the West side, (that’s Shrewsbury and the surrounding areas – now known as West Shropshire Talking Newspaper), and one for the East side, which covers :
- Market Drayton
- Much Wenlock
So that’s us ! We produced the first fortnightly East Shropshire Talking Newspaper on 3rd May 1990 and from 1992 we began a weekly operation.
We are based at the Shropshire Star building in Ketley, and provide a FREE weekly USB memory stick of local news and features to our listeners.
The format of our TN provides local news for the first 45 minutes, followed by magazine and feature type pieces for the following 35 minutes. These features are a mixture of local and national articles. Some are obtained from publications such as Shropshire Magazine and Infosound, along with larger items from the local newspapers. We also produce features ourselves, such as interviews with local people and also well known celebrities.
We also include reports on local events, local sport, poetry, short stories and of course any items of specific interest to people with any form of sight impairment.
We are staffed entirely by volunteers, and operate solely via voluntary donations from both individuals and organisations, for example Local Councils and Social organisations. We receive no government or private funding as a matter of course.
The service is free, and eligibility is that subscribers should either be registered as blind, or have close-up vision (with spectacles) of N12 or less. (This can be confirmed by an Ophthalmic Optician or Ophthalmologist). People with other forms of disability may also be eligible.
We also provide a USB (Memory Stick) player on permanent loan if the listener doesn’t have one of their own.
Our Editorial Policy
At the outset of ESTN we decided on an editorial policy whereby we don’t include the more violent or unsavoury crime. This is not because we shy away from it, but because many of our listeners live alone or are vulnerable in some way, so the very last thing we want to do is to cause them any distress. Also of course they can get this kind of information from local television or radio if they so wish. This policy is however at the discretion of the Editor, and there may be a high profile story, which may merit being included; but as a general rule we focus firmly on community news, events and the activities and achievements of local people.
We also do our best (within the bounds of whatever’s in the papers that week) to cover stories from as many parts of our area as possible.
We regularly ask for feedback, which we do receive, but we would welcome more, and we always endeavour to act on what people ask for, if it is something that we feel will benefit the listeners as a whole. So for example :
- We received many requests in years gone by asking for the Sports news to be kept to a few minutes, so we acted on that, and for some years now the Sports report has been specially written on the basis of the facts in the papers and timed to be an appropriate length.
- Another example is that we’ve been asked on several occasions to make sure that we include news from certain places within the area, so we also take this into consideration when selecting our articles.
- One week we decided to try reading some of the letters which the public write to the local press, and we had a number of comments from the listeners saying they enjoyed these, so have now made that a fairly regular part of our output.
What We Do – The Weekly Cycle
The whole process starts at the weekend.
The Midland News Association at Ketley kindly supplies us with free copies of all the local newspapers, which are :
- Telford and Bridgnorth Journals
- Newport and Market Drayton Advertisers
- Shropshire Star (we also use the Wellington News and it’s sister publications).
The person who is the ESTN Editor for that week’s issue collects a week’s worth of newspapers from the Shropshire Star offices at Ketley, and they go through all 10 papers, selecting appropriate items to be read. These are then cut out, pasted onto sheets and put into a running order. (Nowadays the Editors also download and print articles from the Shropshire Star website).
The Editor also reads through all the articles and changes any time phrases that they might find, such as “yesterday”, “tomorrow”, “Tuesday night” and so forth. This is because by the time the TN is received, this information can be out of date, and therefore may cause confusion. We do however leave in specific dates of events if they are far enough in the future; as this is part of our responsibility to inform.
Next, on the Wednesday morning, a team of volunteers receives the returned Memory Sticks from the previous week, unpack them from the pouches, and then erase them to get them ready for their next use.
The next part of the process is the actual recording which takes place on a Wednesday evening.
In the studio each week, we have a group of volunteers to produce the recording. This group consists of :
- The Presenter, who reads all the links between the items and generally brings the TN together. (This is sometimes the same person who did the Editing of the news items, but not always).
- Two Readers, who read the news and features. (We always try to have one lady and one gentleman, in order to provide a variety of voices).
- A Sound Engineer. (ESTN is professionally studio-recorded by the Sound Engineer, who controls the technical aspects of the recording and produces the master Memory Stick).
- On Thursdays, the Master Memory Stick is copied using a group of special bulk duplicating machines; after which the Memory Sticks are packed into pouches which have a window on the front, containing a label, addressed to each listener.
- The membership and dispatch operation is carefully monitored to ensure that we take account of people’s changing circumstances, such as periods in hospital, holidays, changes of address, and of course listeners either joining or leaving the list.
- Because our Talking Newspaper falls under Royal Mail’s classification “Articles for The Blind”, pouches are delivered and collected free of charge.
- Once the listener has finished with their Memory Stick, they then place it inside the pouch, turn the address label over to show the return address, place the label into the pouch window, and post the pouch back to us. (The pouch can be placed into any post box).
The process then starts all over again…
Besides these basic functions which happen every single week, we have many other volunteers and contributors who do all sorts of ad-hoc and ongoing jobs for us.
Up until 2012 we used to distribute ESTN via standard cassette; but of course this is now very old technology, as cassettes are now rare to buy and there are much better forms of media on the market in terms of sound quality, cost and robustness. We therefore explored the options regarding what to do in the future.
We thought about using CDs, but there are issues over re-recordable CDs being expensive to purchase regularly, and not everyone having a machine and so forth.
The internet is another option, which we are now pleased to provide, and which is suitable for some of our listeners; however not everyone has the internet, and for many of our listeners, their sight impairment is such that it is not easy or convenient for them to use this technology in a conventional way.
We have to be very mindful that some of our listeners also have other disabilities, and therefore we need to provide a media and player which are straightforward to use.
We therefore opted to use a USB Memory Stick, which is a small device which plugs into a special speaker. We supply both the Stick and Speaker to each listener free of charge.
Further details about our work is held by the following organisations:
© East Shropshire Talking Newspaper for the Blind | Registered Charity : 1007044