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A couple of months ago my local radio club decided to bring back their monthly newsletter. The newsletter had been absent as a club communications tool for a few years, although there was a well-maintained website with frequent updates by multiple contributors. At least part of the reason the newsletter is returning to our club is that I suggested at one of the club meetings that it do so and that I would help to edit the new publication. So far, so good! There are two of us sharing editorial duties and several club members have stepped up to the plate and contributed columns and stories so that no one person is responsible for doing all of the work each month. Working together as a team allows the newsletter crew to turn out a good product that is an asset to the club.
But why is a newsletter still important in this age of constantly-available information that bombards us from every direction?
It's hard to put one's finger on exactly why people prefer one news and information source over another one. The obvious preference for a traditional means of reading the club news, a print newsletter format that has been successful for years, perhaps decades, is one consideration. If your club is anything like mine, there are going to be several club members who do not have computers and who feel left out without a monthly newsletter that they can actually hold in their hands and perhaps even mark or take notes on with a pencil. Although individual stories from a club website can be printed up for members who do not use computers, it really isn't even close to the same thing as an official club newsletter that pulls together all of the information in one single publication. Then there will be the other club members who have and use computers but who still prefer the traditional print format. Even some people with advanced technical skills find a print newsletter more compelling and relaxing to read, especially if they sit in front of a computer screen all day long at the workplace. A print newsletter can also be passed on to another family member or a friend. A physical newsletter is not quite as easy to forget about as a web link that someone might give to you. A print newsletter can be read without any device or Internet access.
The last time I checked my calendar, it was 2011. With our feet firmly planted in the 21st century, even a print newsletter for your radio club must have a digital online edition. The reasons for this are pretty obvious; there will be people who prefer to read everything online. It is important that the club serve the newsletter up for these people on the website because doing so will save printing and mailing costs, probably for the majority of club members. In fact, our club seldom mails anything out these days, much less newsletters. It makes more sense to produce the newsletter in PDF, place it on the website as a download, and allow club members who want to read a print newsletter to go ahead and download and print the publication for themselves and for their friends. Several printed copies will be available to distribute at club meetings to members without computers. A few newsletters will be available to mail out to club members who are out of State for the winter or who are unable to get to a club meeting because of health or transportation issues. Furthermore, the PDF version necessarily contains embedded text that can be read by blind members who use screen reading technology.
So the club newsletter of 2011 is different from the club newsletter of 1991 or 2001. The differences are obvious even to club members who read the print edition. The layout and color photos wouldn't be possible without modern software like Microsoft Publisher. The content itself is available 24/7 on the club website for club members to explore months or years after it was first published. Articles are searchable by computer. Content is accessible to blind computer users. Before all of this new technology came along, club newsletters were pretty basic-looking monochrome publications that were sometimes done on mimeograph machines. There is no doubt that the 21st century amateur radio club newsletter can be a pretty impressive looking publication!
However, the newsletter still serves the same basic purpose of communicating to club members in a way that it always has. Monthly meeting announcements and notes, things that are happening in the lives of radio club members, amateur radio news of broader importance to everyone, club calendars, regular columns by club members or officers, minutes from the previous month's meeting, and all of the other timely news collected in a single place each month make up the traditional content of a typical monthly issue. The newsletter is fundamentally different from a website in that it represents information that has been collected, edited, arranged, and presented in a very specific way at a specific point in time by editors. The monthly publication, once posted on the website, is the official newsletter for that month. This may be seen as hopelessly outdated by some people who cannot understand why anyone would want to look at a news source that isn't constantly updated, but on the other hand may be seen as a huge asset by others who don't care to devote the time and attention to a club website where information overload can lead to missing important stories that might not be near the top of the pile of information.
One of the problems club websites have is simply that they must compete with hundreds of other websites for our attention every day every month every year every hour. Although at the time dropping a regular monthly newsletter seemed like a good idea, having the newsletter as a single point of collected information each month now seems like it is a little bit too important to give up just yet. That is the reason that I volunteered to help edit my club's newsletter. Yes, it is another thing to do in my already busy life, but I know that I have the ability and desire to help my radio club in this activity and I realize that making a radio club a successful endeavor is something that requires all of us to roll up our sleeves and pitch in. I would like you to think about how you are helping your local radio club to be the best possible organization it can be. You may not be able or interested in editing a club newsletter, but you may have time to write an article or a monthly column about one of your amateur radio interests. You may have time to write an occasional column, perhaps promoting Handihams or the Handiham nets to your local club via the club newsletter or website. If you are simply not a writer, there are still plenty of other opportunities to participate in your club's activities. Although showing up for meetings is important, your radio club will be better off and you will have more fun if you sometimes raise your hand to volunteer to help put together the club's field day activities or the club picnic. Monthly meetings are generally divided into the business part of the meeting and some kind of club program. If you have a special interest in amateur radio and would like to put on a program for your club, I'd be willing to bet just about anything that you would be welcomed with open arms. Most clubs are eager to find presenters for the club program, instructors for their licensing classes, and volunteer examiners for their VE teams.
I guess my point is that you can't be afraid to step forward and do something for your local radio club, whether it is working on the newsletter or some other club project or on the air activity like the net or the repeater. Every active organization will have volunteer opportunities. I hope you will step up to the plate. You will have more fun and your club will be the better for it!
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham System Manager
FCC issues three accessibility-related NPRMs - Handiham members might want to comment!
Washington, D.C. – As part of its ongoing efforts to implement the “Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010” (CVAA), the Federal Communications Commission issued three Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs). The CVAA is considered the most significant piece of accessibility legislation since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.