‘Exceptional dedication’ of man behind talking newspaper

Tuesday 17th May 2022 11:00 am
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Brian Smith, the man behind the talking newspaper Dyrons Journal, receives the BEM.

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The man behind a talking newspaper for the visually impaired in Teignbridge has been recognised for his ‘exceptional’ dedication with a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Brian Smith is the chairman of Dyrons Journal, a publication for which a team of volunteers record the latest editions of the Mid-Devon Advertiser, Dawlish Gazette and Teignmouth Post newspapers, before posting them online and via USB sticks to listeners’ homes.

The free service became a greater challenge during covid when the team lost access to their recording studio at the Advertiser because of government restrictions, leading to it being produced by Mr Smith alone in his dining room.

He received the honour for “services to the community in Newton Abbot, particularly during covid,” from the Lord Lieutenant for Devon, at a special ceremony held at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Lympstone last week.

As part of the initiative, Mr Smith ensures that every new listener, often referred to him through the sensory team at the local hospital, receives a visit to hear how it all works and to check they have the correct equipment.

He also gives talks to local organisations to increase awareness of Dyrons Journal, which first began in 1977, and to raise the funds for its upkeep.

‘The reaction from the visually impaired is that it’s a lifeline and the one I like best is the people who say, ‘I can now tell my neighbours what’s going on in the area,’ Mr Smith said.

‘It really does bring a sense of involvement to people who otherwise start to lose touch.’

At the ceremony, the Journal chairman was praised for ‘dedication and efforts to keep this service running for his listeners.’

After hearing that the online version was unavailable to many listeners who did not have IT equipment, Mr Smith collected the equipment needed to offer their usual service and arranged a new process from his home to ensure listeners could still hear the content.

‘I did it on my own for the first six months or so, then I had gradually been able to bring other people in in small numbers as covid restrictions have lifted. And that’s how we managed to keep things going.’

When asked if he ever thought it would lead to such a high honour, he added: “Absolutely not.

‘And I’m really humbled when I hear the citations for the other people who received awards this afternoon.

‘What other people have done is – it’s not false modesty – but I regard what other people have done … as so much greater than anything that I’ve done that I’m just grateful for the people around me who saw it fit to nominate me.’

As well as Dyrons Journal, Mr Smith is also a volunteer for Storybook Dads at Channings Wood Prison, which helps inmates record stories for their children.

During the ceremony, he was commended for ‘setting an example in how to create inclusivity and how to build a more accessible community.’

Mr Smith is keen to recruit fresh faces for his team.

‘We are not getting any younger, those of us who run it,’ he said.

‘And there are no obvious successors at the moment, so our next challenge is to find people who will take the reins and carry the baton into the future,’ he said.

For more information on Dyrons Journal and how to volunteer, visit dyronsjournal.co.uk.

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