This morning I finally had my Introduction Session at the Talking Newspaper. OK, so I’ve been reading/editing for a year now but even so…I’m glad I went. I was thinking it was going to be a waste of time but, actually, it was very interesting.
John Siebert (chairman and presenter) gave four of us (two new readers, a lady on the committee and me) a talk about the history of the FATN and how it all works. Naturally, as a reader, I know how my bit works but the rest of it was a mystery. Until now.
The FATN started in 1971, when a woman, studying at Southampton University noticed a group of people recording newspaper articles onto a reel to reel tape. When she found out what they were doing, she took the idea back home and set up the FATN. In those dim, dark technological days, they recorded onto reel and hand delivered them to visually impaired locals.
Eventually, it grew and a switch was made to cassette tapes. This proved a lot easier to copy and distribute and they went from strength to strength. Some Talking Newspapers in the UK still use cassettes but the FATN made the decision to switch to CDs. They lost a few listeners because of this but felt it was the best way forward. They are now switching to flash drives (computer sticky things) which is a much better technology and allows unlimited re-use (actually, I’m pretty sure the life of a flash drive is about 10,000 re-writes but that’s a LOT!). That’s how I get my copy.
I also found out that not only doesn’t the FATN get any funding from anyone (all the money raised is by fundraising ventures, donations or bequests) but given the paranoia surrounding the protection of personal information, the NHS no longer supplies the FATN with names and addresses of visually impaired people. In the past, this information was used to let them know directly that the Talking Newspaper was available for them free of charge. Now it’s more word of mouth or just luck. I can understand identity protection but this is just ludicrous.
There are around 500 Talking Newspapers in the UK, so if anyone is reading this and knows someone who is visually impaired, could you let them know this service is available to them? OK, highly unlikely but you never know.
It’s been an amazingly miserable day here today. Here’s what West Street looked like on my way back from FATN.
I should add that because of the weather, I was unable to complete the auricula theatre today but I did buy the extra timber yesterday on the way home from work. The BBC promised sunshine tomorrow so I’ll hopefully finish before the rain returns on Thursday.