In a corner of the second floor of the Deer Crossing complex, above a gaming store, Eric Joseph and some volunteers help the seeing-impaired stay connected.
With four small studios—each with a computer, microphone and some foam pads for noise control—volunteers read an hour’s-worth of news for Mr. Joseph to organize, edit, and then pump out on the radio airwaves for anyone from Provincetown to Fall River to hear.
The space and operation are the Audible Local Ledger, one of six affiliates in Massachusetts that are connected to the Talking Information Center headquartered in Marshfield. The operation supplies news, short stories, radio dramas and other programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Mr. Joseph is the new executive director of the Mashpee location, taking over from Sherry Bergeron. Ms. Bergeron ran the local branch for about a decade and after a few weeks of training, Mr. Joseph officially took over the reins April 1.
In his new role, the new executive director hopes to make the station again more local and attuned to the needs of the blind and visually impaired here in Mashpee, the Cape, the South Shore and the islands.
While he has had some success already, his challenge is a limited budget. The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind supplies his branch about $40,000 a year. That goes for rent in Deer Crossing, his salary, and supplies.
He plans to seek out grants and donations, but to provide the programming he wants to, he needs volunteers. To volunteer, he said, is pretty simple. At most, it takes about an-hour-and-a-half per week.
Mr. Joseph tapes and then edits the news read by the volunteers, and proceeds to broadcast the hour-long segments over the service.
With 100 volunteers, he could supply every hour block of air time with a local voice. To him, the goal of 100 might not be realistic, but his point is clear: the more volunteers, the more the blind in the community will be connected to local news.
“We are taking it back to the streets,” Mr. Joseph said during an interview in the Deer Crossing office. “Local, local, local.”
Helping the blind stayed informed, the executive director said, is huge. Without the reading service, it can be difficult to navigate the world. Television, while it has audio, does not have the same quality of news as major newspapers, nor the local connection. On a regular weekday, the reading service could provide readings of the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe; and then turn to regional and then local sources, from The Cape Cod Times to The Mashpee Enterprise.
Read the stories that matter most.
The station also provides supermarket circulars, poetry, mystery reads, and other programming. The aim is to provide discussion groups, short stories, and to provide relevant material to the listeners.
From the few homes and retirement communities to which Mr. Joseph already has provided a listening device, he has heard positive testimonials.
“They feel like they are connected again,” he said. “If we can help lift the blinders even a little bit...”
One such listener is Jane F. Perry, a Falmouth resident who is seeing impaired. “It’s a great, great service,” Ms. Perry said. “I love my TIC [Talking Information Center].”
The Falmouth resident has been know to advocate for services on the Cape, at times visiting the State House. With its aging population, she said that the Cape is often forgotten as it is essentially an island to the rest of the state. That has been the case for the local audible ledger as a few years back when funding was reduced. When it was cut, much of the local information over the air was reduced as well.
But Ms. Perry is hopeful with the new energy coming into Mashpee. She said that Mr. Joseph’s business background could help out.
Mr. Joseph is no stranger to the reading service.
Much of his career he spent in sponsorship, specifically with Clear Channel, a major media corporation out of New York City. He also worked for an advertising company before moving back to his hometown of Cohasset to help his family.
He eventually wanted to get back into the working world and, wanting to get back into acting, he ended up becoming the executive director of the Bay Colony Shakespeare Company, a nonprofit theater company with a focus on education on the South Shore. He remains its executive director today.
Meanwhile, his mother volunteered at the Talking Information Center headquarters in Marshfield. Whether his passion for acting, or his mother’s involvement with reading, Mr. Joseph soon began volunteering at the same center and would become the reader of The Wall Street Journal for the outlet, which runs in the prime time slot for the regional service center. He read every Friday for five years.
When he heard that Ms. Bergeron would be retiring from the Mashpee position, he jumped at the opportunity.
Mr. Joseph said that he wants to give the listeners of the Mashpee station more local news, but also hopes to get radios out to more places in the community.
The ledger will provide radios for free—”We won’t turn anyone down,” Mr. Joseph said, but he hopes for a donation, given the operation’s limited budget.
The special radios are able to connect to a subchannel of major regional radio stations. The more expensive variety is able to connect to wifi. Listeners can also connect with an application on a smart phone. For the radios, the station is able to use a subchannel of 95.1 FM, WXTK for Cape listeners.
In particular, the channel gives the Audible Local Ledger and its listeners an opportunity to receive the information they need from a familiar voice.