Groundcover News partners with Ann Arbor library for podcast featuring writers reading their stories

Ann Arbor-based Groundcover News, which primarily employs low-income people, has partnered with the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) and Fifth Avenue Studios to produce an audio companion to Groundcover's physical newspaper. The podcast, "Groundcover Speaks," will feature Groundcover writers reading their own articles aloud while also participating in the production process. "Groundcover Speaks" will be available for free through AADL's website or through any major podcasting platform.

Groundcover Managing Director Lindsay Calka says the inspiration for the project came from one of the paper's longtime vendors, who was beginning to have difficulty reading the physical paper because of his vision loss. 

"We pivoted to having someone from our office read articles directly to him," Calka says. "But after doing that consistently, we realized that if someone so deeply involved with our paper can't read it, something wasn't right."

With Groundcover's downtown Ann Arbor office in close proximity to AADL's downtown location, Calka saw an opportunity to utilize AADL's accessibility tools, such as screen readers and magnifiers, to make the paper more accessible to blind and disabled readers. 

"I thought it would be a matter of sending them the paper every two weeks to be converted," Calka says. "But they were able to pull us in with Fifth Avenue Studios, and in retrospect, it fits so much better with what we're all about."

As a nonprofit, Groundcover's mission statement is to "create opportunity and a voice for low-income people while taking action to end homelessness and poverty." But Calka adds that a large part of Groundcover's mission is also to encourage community members to build relationships with one another. She feels that the podcast will allow readers to get to know Groundcover writers and vendors better by hearing their stories in their own voices.

"I know all the vendors and writers, and that enhances my experience reading," Calka explains. "But not everybody does. I'm very excited to share that with others."

Calka also urges folks to get into the community and meet Groundcover's vendors and writers in person, in addition to listening to the audio companion. Vendors are often posted in downtown Ann Arbor selling papers every two weeks, and there are current plans to push more vendors into the Ypsilanti area, she says.

"We want to encourage folks who are learning about Groundcover to engage with the physical paper as well as the audio," she says. "We want people to find a vendor, buy a paper, and be a part of the community."

New episodes of Groundcover Speaks will be released every two weeks through podcast providers and AADL's website. To learn more about Groundcover News or get involved, visit Groundcover's website.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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