Former reporter talks up the Campbeltown Courier

Fiona Wallace sits down with a copy of last week's Campbeltown Courier.
Fiona Wallace sits down with a copy of last week's Campbeltown Courier.

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A former Campbeltown Courier reporter has been sharing the local news with communities all over Argyll and Bute since the beginning of lockdown.

Fiona Wallace, from Lochgilphead, is one of the Argyll Talking Newspapers volunteers who, before coronavirus, read and recorded top news items letters, sport, community news and what’s on, from six local newspapers – including the Courier – onto USB sticks before sending them to people who find reading difficult.

The weekly recordings stopped when lockdown was announced due to the close working process of recording, copying and posting of the sticks to 125 listeners.

Speaking last week Fiona said: ‘It was a necessary, but sad, occasion.

‘Our listeners, primarily visually impaired but with other temporary and permanent reasons which make reading their local newspaper difficult, rely on talking newspapers to keep them up-to-date with what is happening in their area.’

Realising that many of her listeners would miss their weekly news fix during the ensuing ‘stay at home’ phase, Lanark-born Fiona came up with a plan.

‘I decided to continue reading some newspapers, in less detail than we would normally, and post the recordings on the Argyll Talking Newspapers Facebook page – – as a way of continuing to reach some of our listeners,’ she explained.

Around the same time, Oban FM was struggling to fill its usual schedule due to some presenters and staff members being unable to travel to the studio.

Fiona spoke to station managers about having recordings broadcast as a way to fill the airwaves and keep Oban folk up-to-date with the local news on air. The idea was welcomed by both organisations, including Argyll Talking Newspapers chairman Robin Finlay, and since then Fiona has recorded highlights from the Oban Times each week.

Short recordings from the Campbeltown Courier, Argyllshire Advertiser and the Ileach are also posted on the Argyll Talking Newspapers Facebook page.

Fiona began work as a journalist with DC Thomson in the publishing company’s Manchester office in 1976, working as a reporter on the Weekly News, Sunday Post and Jackie magazine.

On returning to Scotland in 1988 she continued to work as a reporter with the Campbeltown Courier before moving on to take up the position of press officer with Argyll and Bute Council.

Since retiring in 2016, Argyll Talking Newspapers has become a big part of her life. Little did she know that radio broadcasting would become part of it too.

‘Becoming familiar with the technical side of recording has been a steep learning curve,’ she added.

Fiona had never used the microphone or camera on her laptop before and was now faced with the daunting task of converting files from one format to another, transferring them and turning them into videos for Facebook.

Now the radio station has decided to give the Argyll Talking Newspapers its own regular slot.

Argyll Talking Newspapers airs on Oban FM at 7pm on Friday and Mondays. Oban FM is on 103.3 FM and at or on the Tunein App.

As soon as the lockdown ends and it is safe to do so, Argyll Talking Newspapers will start reading and recording again