OMAHA — Every Monday morning Larry Thornton walks into the studios of Radio Talking Book Service in Omaha to record a 45-minute “week-in-review” of news from the Kearney Hub. He’s already selected the top local news stories, edited the obituaries to their most important details, and is ready to record.
When Thornton exits, his news report is ready to go.
The Kearney Hub can be heard every Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. on the Radio Talking Book Network by a potential listening audience of 7,400 blind, low-vision and print-impaired listeners across Nebraska who have reduced ability to read. RTBN provides radio receivers at no cost to eligible individuals and care facilities. It is accessible statewide via internet stream on the RTBN website, smartphone apps and new radio options.
Thornton has been reading here for about nine months, but this isn’t his first foray into the world of news and broadcast. For years, he was the announcer and public relations manager for Nebraska Motor Plex and NHRA (Nebraska Hot Rod Association).
When he retired seven years ago, he started sleeping in late. He joined his local drag car racing group. Then he decided to do “something that made a difference” by signing up to start reading with RTBS. With his background, he was immediately marked as a “regular” and assigned to the Kearney Hub.
“Many volunteers have been reading for over a decade, some for over 35 years,” said Betty Deepe, RTBS volunteer coordinator. “It is addictive. Some readers concentrate on a particular program segment, like Bookshelf, reading their favorite novel in one-hour segments; or Trips and Travel, taking readers on an audio vacation across the globe, or to some interesting locale just around the corner.”
Daily programming for RTBS includes readings from 12 regional newspapers, including the Hub; live daily readings of the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star seven days a week; weekly regional grocery and department store ads; current information from more than 70 magazines, and other literature.
“Nearly all these publications would otherwise be inaccessible to our listeners,” Deepe said. RTBS also features local nonprofits and agencies on its live-interview Community Conversations program; a weekly community calendar; a Veterans Hour, and special programming features.
Radio Talking Book Service, founded in Omaha in 1974, serves Nebraska and southwest Iowa. RTBS brings the printed word to life through two key programs: Radio Talking Book Network, a statewide radio reading service; and Listening Link, an educational reading program which assists in eliminating educational barriers for students who are blind, visually impaired or have learning disorders. Listening Link collaborates with area schools to provide audio recordings of textbooks and other course material enabling students to achieve academic success.