It’s confession time: I’ve not been a member of the ARRL for most of the time I’ve been licensed. This wasn’t due to any fundamental disagreement with the organization, policies or its people. Rather, I simply didn’t have amateur radio as my main hobby for the first ten years or so that I was licensed due to school, work and other commitments. (I had a lot of sporting clays to shoot, or as W4GA and I call it, “turning a lot of money into noise.”) Eventually, I did join the organization and have been pleased with the services and benefits that are conferred upon those with membership. However, no organization is perfect; but the great thing about the ARRL is that any member is able to have things changed as a result of petitioning the elected leaders of the organization, many of whom I’ve often found to be willing to listen to proposals brought to them, not that I’ve had to do so. Until now.
In middle to late last year, I attempted to have my views on what seems to me to be a pretty big problem within the VHF community at large- in relation to the ARRL in particular- published as an Op-Ed within the organization’s membership magazine, QST. It was rejected. This was disheartening, as no one enjoys rejection. As is standard in the publishing industry, no reason was given as to why the piece was rejected. At this point, I could have chosen one of two ways to handle this:
1) File the letter away and figure, oh well, I tried.
2) I could send the piece to a competing publication for dissemination. I could then mail it to the individuals who needed to be solicited the most- the elected ARRL officials who have culpability in the matter- and then publish it on my own page. You can guess which I picked.
I’ve read enough vacuous op-ed pieces in QST to wonder why they even publish them in the first place, as they are so boring and milquetoast as to be of no use whatsoever. They’d be better off selling another page to the advertisers; and in fact, the editorial leadership of QST are already shortening two of my favorite columns, “The World Above 50 MHz,” and “Microwavelengths,” in order to accommodate more advert filler for the magazine. I’m sure other columns have taken their lumps, too.
Before I continue, I’d like to point out that I don’t have an axe to grind with the editorial staff- it took nearly two months from submission to rejection- which I hope indicates that there was some discussion and thought put into rejecting my submission. I respect that not every piece can be published for any number of reasons and that the rejection itself isn’t personal. I’ve nothing but respect for the ARRL staff, volunteers and leadership. It’s a pretty thankless job, I imagine, and I’m sure many of the folks in Newington are laboring not to become wealthy, but are instead pursuing something that they are passionate about. I’d love to work for the ARRL myself. I believe it to be a great organization.
None of this, however, changes the fact that my views are still worth considering and should have been published, if only to bring to light the difficulties that the VHF segment of the membership has recently undergone without notice to the membership at large. I’ve taken the rejection more as a sign of apathy to the subject matter than as a sign of some resentment or unwillingness to work to improve matters for everyone. There is a great and growing chasm among VHF operators as a body and these fights are especially visceral among the EME ops. The ARRL has it in its power to ameliorate some of these difficulties and keep the catfight from continuing (or maybe directing the catfight to happen in another way); but for some reason, does not appear to wish to do so. Part of me can’t say I blame them; but the other part of me believes the ARRL Board of Directors should reexamine dissolving the VUAC (VHF/UHF Activity Committee) committee, revising VHF contest rules and perhaps reevaluate the VUCC award, as well. One thing is for sure, out of the three, one item is most important: the VUAC needs to be reinstated.
Below the fold, please find a copy of the submitted op-ed. I’ve sent a paper copy to each Director and Vice Director as well. I like to be thorough. As someone interested in VHF and above operating and contesting, I find it utterly deplorable that the VUAC was disbanded and that continued calls for rule changes in VHF contests- or at least the consideration of them- continue to fall on deaf ears. Considering VHF operator demographics, it is really no wonder why this is the case- there are too few operators to compete for what must be too few resources. But even so, if VHF ops can’t come to a consensus about what to do, how can we really hold those in Newington responsible? We have to have a direction that the leaders in Newington can be presented with and be shown to fulfill the desires of a large majority of those same people who often complain on the various reflectors but never seem to write anyone who actually can change things about it. We can get things changed. Maybe my efforts here will provoke more debate. But what I am really hopeful for is that my thoughts actually gets debated by the people who can actually help to change things. We have to start somewhere, and this is just as good a place as any.