By Chris Cunningham
Cameron Reiten was 16-years-old at the time he proposed a summer internship at KNND radio station in Cottage Grove.
"I've always been one of those who liked to tinker around with electrical and audio stuff," says Reiten, who has been blind since birth.
Paul Schwartzberg, then news director at KNND, took Reiten under his wing and taught him about basic journalism principles, and how to write news briefs and manipulate the controls on the station's soundboard.
Shortly after Reiten graduated from Cottage Grove High School in 2005, Schwartzberg, who had assumed ownership of KNND, offered him full-time employment. By then, Reiten already was a regular voice at the station.
During the day, Reiten honed his newsgathering skills; at night, beginning in fall 2005, he took classes at
LCC's Cottage Grove campus.
Reiten says for people who work full-time, "the community college format is valuable. Not everyone can drop what they are doing and take classes during the day."
After earning his associate of arts degree from LCC in 2011," Reiten enrolled in Strategies of Success, a 10-month program offered by the college's Small Business Development Center. Instructor James Burke "brought a wealth of real world experience to the program," Reiten says.
At one time, a radio professional told Reiten it wasn't possible for "a blind person to work in radio," he says.
To some extent, he explains, the successful operation of radio equipment involves tactile maneuvers, which
he was able to memorize years ago. He relies on a computer software program that reads the radio show
for him, and scrolls news copy on a laptop that has a Braille keyboard.
In July 2013, Schwartzberg transferred ownership of KNND to the 27-year-old Reiten, who now exudes the
confidence of a broadcast veteran, despite his age and the presumed obstacles of a person who cannot see.
"People really like Cameron," says Schwartzberg, who adds, "He has a certain something" that resonates with
What's more, Schwartzberg says, "Cameron already knew more about the technology than I did. He had that aptitude."
Along with his duties as a business owner, Reiten serves as general manager and news director, combined responsibilities that keep him at the station 60 hours a week.
Schwartzberg says he relinquished ownership in order to simplify his life and has been working as the station's sales manager. He also hosts a music program and "The Beeper Show," thought to be the longest running talk show in Lane County. Two others also work at the station part-time.
Reiten says, "We're not a one-size radio program," dedicated to one type of music. "We play rock 'n' roll,
classic rock, and polka."
Technical aptitude and native intelligence aside, Reiten attributes his success to understanding the core values of the community and to his "good rapport with Cottage Grove listeners."
Published by Continuing Education December 2013