SIRIS (Southern Illinois Radio Information Service) is a community service of WSIU that provides free radio broadcasts of news, information, and recreational reading to the blind, visually impaired, and print disabled. Members of the community can request, at no charge, a special radio that picks up the SIRIS broadcast, which is on a sub-frequency of the main WSIU FM signals. While some of the broadcast comes in via a national syndicate, from 9 am to 4 pm, the programming is powered by volunteer readers in the Carbondale community.
Gary Kass has been reading with SIRIS for around a year. He moved to Carbondale from Missouri after his wife got a job at SIU. One of the first things he always does when moving to a new area is seek out the public radio station, so he very quickly began listening to WSIU radio. One day he heard an ad for SIRIS and his interest was piqued, so he reached out to the station to get involved.
Since moving to Carbondale, Gary performs his editorial duties as an Acquisitions Editor for the University of Missouri Press from home. Getting to come into the WSIU studio is a great way for him to “get out of the house and break up the day.” He bikes down to the studio on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and reads for around thirty minutes over his lunch hour.
While Gary will read just about anything for SIRIS listeners, his favorite periodical is The Week, a digest magazine that recaps the national news of the previous week. He brings in his own copy from home and jokes, “I’m kind of a proselytizer for this magazine. I’ve even got my daughter reading it.” Since many other SIRIS readers cover local newspapers and magazines, Gary has been told the broader national coverage provided by The Week is a great fit into the SIRIS lineup.
Gary loves reading aloud, and sees it as a skill that can always be improved upon. He likes to read and pick out particular articles in The Week ahead of time, looking up the correct pronunciation of names and places so his recording can go as smoothly as possible. Paying close attention to emphasis and pacing, Gary’s goal is to read the news in such a way that listeners don’t have to work to understand the true meaning of a news story. He hopes that through his volunteering, more people can have access to a wider array of viewpoints on the news, who might not have access to it otherwise.
It might not come as a surprise that Gary also enjoys reading in his freetime, albeit material not related to his work. He’s currently making his way through some of his personal back catalogue of books, ones he’s had for years but hasn’t had the chance to enjoy until now. When he needs a reading break, he also enjoys bike riding.
If you’re interested in joining Gary and the other volunteer SIRIS readers, you can reach out to our communications team by calling 618-453-2808 or emailing Kevin Boucher at email@example.com.