By Sue Lichtenfels, Editor
Life is a series of transitions. We move from one physical place to another, from one job to another, one family makeup to another, and one opinion to another. Even at our happiest moments when we want to bask in the joy of the moment, time and circumstance have a way of pushing us down life’s river. The ever famous “they” say, “All good things must come to an end.” And of course, “they” would be right. With the publication of this edition of The PCB Advocate, so, too, shall I transition from its editorship into a new role in PCB.
I have had a good gig going for more than a decade as Editor in Chief of our quarterly newsletter. Even while serving four years as PCB President, I continued in my editorship because no one stepped forward when I called for someone new during those years. Then finally, during last year’s conference, when I announced that 2020 would be my last year editing The PCB Advocate, two angels stepped forward to help. Before I introduce your new editors, I want to share some of my reflections from my time at the helm.
When I began as Editor, we were three. It was my job to gather all the articles, check facts, and clean up the more substantial editing issues. I would then pass on the articles to the incomparable Jeanette Schmoyer for copyediting. Carol Swartz, as Layout Editor took the finished articles and puzzled out how to get everything to fit in as few pages as possible and keep the newsletter looking good. Then I would give it all a final read-through before submitting it to the PCB office for distribution. It was so nice to have an editorial team for those early years. But then life did that transition thing. Carol had other priorities to focus on, and eventually Jeanette’s vision and health concerns transitioned her from the editorial team as well. Fortunately, when Christina Heintzelman rejoined our staff in 2015, she was able to help with some copyediting and layout so we could transition into a new editorial routine.
When I began as Editor, distribution was quite different from today. Back then we farmed out our braille embossing to a women’s prison. We used Clovernook for a few issues before we transitioned to our much cheaper provider, Horizons for the Blind. Do you remember the days of audio cassettes? Joe Wassermann led people kicking and screaming through PCB’s transition from cassette to digital cartridges. Joe was able to strike an agreement with the Carnegie Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped for them to distribute our newsletter on their cartridges. I can’t remember who and how we did audio recordings before Tony Swartz started using the synthesized speech of our AccessiDocs project to create an amazing audio version for cartridge recipients. Newsletter distribution has expanded to our website and the PCB Information Line. The newsletter used to be a membership perk, but now the entire community of people impacted by vision loss can benefit from it.
When I began as Editor, I had a vision of transforming the content to be a vehicle for achieving our mission. To my mind this meant shifting the focus from simply informing readers about council meetings and issues to engaging them. I encouraged committees and then teams to make their articles less about the nuts and bolts of business and more about being a resource for readers. Our Technology and Vision Loss teams have done an especially good job of this. I solicited content from peers that would share their experiences of living with vision loss in whatever means they felt comfortable, poetry, tips and tricks, opinion pieces, and storytelling. We moved from a highly structured template of trying to fit every article into a section to a free-form template where readers make their own decisions about the subject value of pieces. Through my editorship, I believe the pages of The PCB Advocate have come to live our mission and demonstrate the value each of our peers brings to PCB.
When I step down as Editor of this last issue, I will leave you in the capable editorial hands of William Grignon as Editor in Chief and Irene Rehman as Assistant Editor. These two dedicated volunteers have been working with me over this past year to bring you quality content. Will is highly organized and a gifted writer. He is also an ideas person who will bring new perspective to the editorship. Irene Rehman has been an excellent addition to the editorial staff. She is very detail oriented in her copyediting and is eager to keep improving. As a person who is partially sighted, Irene has provided invaluable feedback about the visual read-ability of our publications. Together, Will and Irene will continue to bring editorial excellence to The PCB Advocate.
Before I transition to new responsibilities, I want you to know how fortunate I feel to have served as Editor of The PCB Advocate for so many years. My greatest editorial joy has always been to hear peers talk about something they read in the newsletter. Writers put a lot of time into creating informational pieces. Editors spend a lot of time cleaning up pieces to make sure information is accurate and conveyed clearly. Format specialists take a lot of care to get the newsletter converted into accessible documents. PCB pays a lot of money for supplies and services to make sure each peer has access to the newsletter in his or her preferred format. So truly, there is no greater feeling as the Editor than to know that all the time, talent, and money put into publishing a newsletter has been utilized and appreciated. Please continue reading. And if you haven’t already, please consider writing and sharing your story with others. Readers and writers are the heart and soul of The PCB Advocate.