From cassettes to CDs and now USB memory sticks, technology has changed in the 35 years since a group of volunteers first recorded the Falkirk Herald for blind and partially sighted listeners.
But through all the changes in format, Forth Valley Talking Newspapers Association – or Newsline as its listeners call it – has continued to deliver the local news, 50 weeks of the year, come rain, hail or shine.
And as it marks this milestone, the charity is asking for support from the community it serves.
Friends of Newsline are being asked to take out a monthly standing order to show support for the service, which is a vital connection to local people who cannot read their local paper – helping them keep in touch with what’s happening.
As well as the Falkirk Herald, the service also covers the quarterly Falkirk Council newsletter and provides a magazine too, which is a great favourite with listeners.
Founder member Christine Moroney has 35 years service with the charity and, as Newsline’s chairperson, she is in no doubt about its value.
“I lost my sight when I was five, so I had never read a copy of the Falkirk Herald until I got my first copy of Newsline in 1981,” she said.
“It brings you up to date with all the local information – things people often take for granted.
“At that time, there was no local radio station so there was no other way to get local news.
“Now, I speak to a lot of people at the Sensory Centre who lost their sight later in life who were used to reading the Falkirk Herald and missed it, so they really appreciate it.
“Actually, you quite often find that we point out articles to sighted people who have seen the paper but haven’t noticed things!”
However, the service is facing big challenges, with its grant from the council shrinking and rising costs.
Brian Sharp, deputy chairperson, said: “We received a letter saying our funding could be cut.
“We have also been in this building for ten years and, while our landlords have always been very good, there is now a small increase in our rent that we will also have to find.”
The annual running cost of Forth Valley Talking Newspapers Association is approximately £4200 every year, which is met by grants, donations from listeners and other supporters, such as Grangemouth Rotary Club, as well as fundraising.
New listeners are issued with memory sticks along with a player and mailing wallets to return them.
These cost about £60 for each new person. “If someone joins the Friends scheme and donates £4 a month, when you include Gift Aid, that would cover our costs of providing the service to a new member,” explained Brian.
“It doesn’t have to be £4 though – any regular donation would be greatly appreciated.”
Although Newsline has around 200 listeners, there are nearly 900 registered people with severe sight problems in the Falkirk area.
Referrals come from the Forth Valley Sensory Centre, social workers and the RNIB representatives at the Eye Clinic and Sensory Centre. FVTNA would be pleased to hear from anyone who is registered blind and would like to receive their service.
How to help
If you are able to help support the charity through a monthly donation, please email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message, including a telephone number, on the Newsline answering machine on 01324 228313. You can also write to FVTNA, PO Box 42, Falkirk, FK1 1AA, so that the necessary paperwork can be supplied.