Residents in the Council Bluffs area who are blind or visually-impaired are now able to get a daily dose of news via college students in Des Moines. Lori Blachford, a journalism professor at Drake University, has about 60 of her students reading and recording stories from the Council Bluffs newspaper for weekday broadcasts through the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service, or IRIS.
“It’s a great fit for our journalism students,” says Blachford. “It’s a terrific lesson in the power of local news and in what happens if, or the risk of, leaving anybody out of the conversation because they weren’t able to have access to the news.” The students in Blachford’s “Media Responsibility Over Time” course at Drake are reading from the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil. She says they produce a daily, one-hour radio broadcast that includes the paper’s news, opinion, obituaries, sports and entertainment.
“They’re using a lot of their journalism skills from news judgment and picking the stories to just getting used to hearing their own voices, to studying how news is put together,” Blachford says. “Our students thrive on service learning so they’re really enjoying this, too. They know they have a larger audience depending on them and that always raises your work to a better level.”
The broadcasts air at 5 and 11 P.M. Monday through Friday, but they’re also available in podcast form from the IRIS website. Blachford says they don’t change any of the content. “Our job is to read it just as it’s written, just as it’s posted on the Nonpareil website,” Blachford says. “That’s equal access. That’s the same access anybody else would have to the website so we just read it as it is.”
The nonprofit group IRIS serves 2,000 Iowa listeners who get a pre-tuned radio receiver that broadcasts 24 hours a day to a frequency customized by region. Through IRIS, more than 260 volunteers statewide read the news from Iowa newspapers, magazines and other publications. Learn more at: “www.iowaradioreading.org“.