Chief of Radio Reading Service tunes in to clients, technology
BOARDMAN — It’s not that Mike Muder minds talking about himself. He just really wants everyone to know about Goodwill’s Youngstown Radio Reading Service, where he is the manager and has worked for 25 years.
But he’ll give more details when pressed. The 48-year old Muder grew up in Hubbard Township and graduated from Hubbard High School in 1991. He and his wife of 15 years, Dawn-Elaine, live in Boardman. Dawn-Elaine works in the office at NovaCare, which offers physical therapy and other types of rehabilitation.
Muder has a music hobby. He can play guitar, drums and bass, and likes to jam with a friend, but he also writes his own songs. He describes himself as a “competent musician who can figure things out.” He likes recording as he can control all aspects of the final product.
He is a Pirates and Steelers fan, due in large part to his parents’ origins in Western Pennsylvania. His great-grandfather always occupied the same seat at Forbes Field, the Pirates’ home until 1970, and was friends with legendary announcer Bob Prince. His brother Craig is the director of communications for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He said that Craig has met most of the inductees from the past 14 years and is no longer starstruck but just sees them as normal people.
Muder first became involved with Radio Reading in 1995 during an internship as part of his telecommunications major at Youngstown State University. He liked the idea of interning at Radio Reading because “they let you touch all aspects of the job” rather than being pigeonholed into one area.
After graduating from YSU, he worked at WBZY in New Castle as a DJ for an oldies format. Considering the logistics involved at the time with changing music cartridges by hand, he regularly played “American Pie” by Don MacLean because of its eight and one-half minute run time.
In 1997, he returned to Goodwill as the chief broadcast technician, working alongside Mike Bosela. He considers Bosela to be a mentor who taught him “how to do things right” and “to appreciate what you have.”
Bosela retired in 2018, but has come back to work one day a week. Bosela and Muder also teamed up to form a support group for the blind community. It meets the third Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. at the Goodwill office, 2747 Belmont Ave. in Liberty.
Muder describes his employment as a happy twist of fate as he hadn’t planned a career at a nonprofit agency.
“It gave me direction and purpose. I get to do audio production and radio, and I get to help people,” Muder said,
He often makes home deliveries of the special radios that pick up the WYSU sideband. This allows him to visualize his audience.
“In typical radio, you never get to see your listeners.” He knows Radio Reading helps decrease feelings of isolation, not only due to the daily broadcast of The Vindicator and Tribune Chronicle, but also because the listeners develop a relationship with the readers.
He notes changes have occurred over the past five years and especially since March 2020. Prior to COVID-19, the volunteers came to Goodwill to read, and all of a sudden they were not permitted in the studio. Muder had to develop workarounds, including teaching everyone how to read remotely. People are finally welcome to return, but now computer apps provide the option of staying home.
Muder stresses the importance of continuing to advance the technology. He said he is excited that people can hear the broadcast through Amazon Alexa as well as a platform called TuneIn, which allows people to access Radio Reading on Google through their iPhones.
But he said his favorite part of the job is working with people. He always gives credit to the volunteers.
“They do 99 percent of the programming. Without them we don’t exist,” Muder said.
And he loves to talk about those who preceded him. Radio Reading started in 1976 as part of the Society for the Blind and came to Goodwill in 1992, so they recently celebrated both a 45th and a 30th anniversary.
“So many people before me have done so much work to get Radio Reading where it is that I want to continue that legacy,” Muder said.
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