Archive for Monday, April 19, 1999


April 19, 1999


Both KANU and the Kansas Audio-Reader Network rely on volunteers, donations and Janet Campbell.

Janet Campbell sure picked a busy time to move.

As the director of the Kansas Audio-Reader Network, she's preparing for Wednesday night's annual volunteer banquet for the hundreds of people who read on the air. As interim general manager of National Public Radio affiliate KANU, she's in the middle of the station's spring fund drive.

At the same time, she's moving into a new house that her husband, Richard Campbell, built in Eudora, where she grew up.

"It's hectic," she said about her split duties as head of the Audio-Reader Network and the station, where she has been acting manager since December 1996.

Radio rebound

At the time, the Kansas University NPR affiliate was facing a budget deficit of about $200,000, then-general manager Howard Hill was shuffled to a newly created job at University Relations, and Campbell was assigned to overlook the daily operations of the station.

Seven staff members were laid off, broadcast hours were temporarily cut and new policies tightening expenditures were enacted. To top it off, equipment problems forced the station off the air within weeks of her taking the position.

Since then, Campbell has overseen the installation of a new transmission line and the broadcast studio was renovated. With the retirement of Hill in December, funds were freed up to begin a search for a general manager, and Campbell said someone should be in the position by July 1. For three years in a row, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters named KANU the state's best noncommercial radio station.

"It can be difficult to bring a struggling station around, and morale was low, but I think things are going really well and we're hoping this fund drive is successful," Campbell said recently, as she signed appreciation certificates that will be awarded at the Audio-Reader banquet Wednesday at the Lawrence Holidome.

Fund drive organizers hope to hit $160,000 before Saturday.

"I think Lawrence is tremendously supportive of both KANU and Audio-Reader. They're considered to be the premiere reading service and one of the finer NPR affiliates in the nation and they both have very strong reputations," she said. "I don't think that would be possible without the support of the university and the support of Lawrence."

More than reading

A graduate of KU, Campbell's first job with the Audio-Reader Network was secretary 20 years ago. The staff and volunteers worked out of a trailer instead of the Baehr Audio-Reader Center.

"When I first started here, we considered ourselves just a reading service. Now I think of ourselves as a multi-service reading service," Campbell said. "That's not to downplay what we do on the radio, because it's very important. As technology has changed, we have to change with it."

Members of the network can receive a signal with a special radio, allowing them to hear volunteers read everything from newspapers, novels, the TV Guide and magazines. Newer programs include a service available to Lawrence, Kansas City and Topeka theaters that use volunteers to describe stage actions and read theater programs, and Lions Club of Kansas sponsored Telephone Reader. The latter program makes available newspapers and the TV Guide available over the telephone at any time of the day.

"Our goal is to promote independence, and that's just one way we help," she said.

Volunteer support

About 350 volunteers read on the air, and Wednesday's appreciation dinner gives the community a chance to thank them.

"I think this is one of the most difficult places to volunteer, because you don't see who you are helping," Campbell said. "It's not like the person at the hospital who hands you the mail; you don't get that smile back. Our volunteers go into a booth and read into a microphone and then leave. Sometimes there's not even a staff member here, because we're open long hours."

Campbell said she hears plenty of positive feedback, and makes a point of passing that along to the volunteers. Of course, she said, the volunteers receive their own rewards through their love of reading and helping others.

"We have a lot of volunteers who know people who have lost their sight, and they know how valuable staying in touch with the community is," she said.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is

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