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Sightline Marks 5 Years At WUWF

WUWF Public Media

Sightline, the reading service based at WUWF, is celebrating its fifth anniversary at the station. 

SightLine volunteers read content of local and regional interest, to area residents with vision impairment or other disabilities which make reading difficult. Pat Crawford, WUWF’s Executive Director, says the decision to take over the service from WSRE, who had it for 18 years, stemmed from cuts in state funding.

“WSRE as a cost-cutting measure determined that Sightline might be a luxury they couldn’t afford to do any longer. It was a business decision they made,” says Crawford. “We decided to pick it up. We felt that it was important to continue that kind of service.”

Generally, radio reading services are radio-based, with WSRE the rare television partnership. The PBS affiliate ran Sightline on its Second Audio Program, or SAP channel. Enter digital technology. 

“You still had to have a special radio that would pick up a “subcarrier,” said Crawford. “But with digital, that solved the problem for us. When we went digital, we suddenly had three program streams that we could broadcast.”

Sightline can be heard on WUWF-3, and WSRE remains a partner in the program. 

Lynne Marshall, the station’s Special Events Coordinator, oversees the day-to-day operation of Sightline. Besides the Pensacola News Journal, the service offers a number of books and magazines – both local and nationwide.

“When we are not running local programming and a children’s program that we do locally, we carry a service called “Gatewave,” Marshall said. “And every type of publication is read; Rolling Stone, Oprah, pet magazines, almost anything that you can think of.”

Reading the PNJ is done in the Sightline studio from 9-11 a.m. Some volunteers also record books and other materials in their homes for later use. One of the strengths of the program, says Marshall, is the leeway it enjoys.

“We can broadcast as much local programming as we can organize,” says Marshall. “As far as users, the [Baby] Boomers are aging rapidly and I do believe that the way it’s used is probably going to change.”

At a reception for Sightline volunteers, Greg Dillon says he’s been reading for about two years. His favorite: the PNJ letters to the editor.

“Sometimes, some of the state briefs are just ‘wack jobs,’ and it’s just a little bit of everything,” said Dillon. “

Kevin Gaddie’s Sightline time began after seeing a Facebook post about three years ago. 

“I’d been looking for some way to give back to the community,” he said. And when I heard what Sightline was about, I decided to give it a shot.”

For Ellen Roston, some of the articles she reads gives her a chance to exercise her acting chops from time to time. 

“I try to be impartial,” said Roston. But sometimes in the comics you can play the character.”

And for Charlie Boyce, reading for Sightline is a bit more personal.

“I have a daughter who has a bad vision problem, and I guess I was drawn to it because of her problems,” Boyce said. 

All told, more than 6,000 volunteer hours have been donated by more than 100 people over the past five years. And there’s always a need for Sightline volunteers. More information is available by calling Lynne Marshall at 850-473-7428, or email lynne@wuwf.org.