No Media Passes at the Huntsville Hamfest? Sacré Bleu!

Ihad a wonderful time at the Huntsville (AL) Hamfest this past weekend. My usual travel companions (N5DU and K5BLL) had family obligations and had to back out just before the Hamfest. K5BLL had a reservation at the Embassy Suites which is connected to the Von Braun Center where the HH is held. Wonderful arrangement!

So I drove from Ridgeland MS through StarkVegas and picked up my friend, K5FLU, Martin Jue of MFJ Enterprises. We had a great ride through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, eatting at the Fish Market & Oyster Bar there. Great Coconut Shrimp! Lost of amateur radio discussions with a true inventor and business man. I’m most proud of calling Martin my close friend.

One of the real pleasures came on Saturday night as Martin dragged me along to a live broadcast of a roundtable of «old» hams… including Tom Medlin (W5KUB), George Thomas (W5JDX), Bob Heil (K9EID), Don Wilbanks (AE5DW), and that young whipersnapper, Bob Allison (WB1GCM) who conducts laboratory tests for the ARRL. As a late in life ham, I didn’t belong but Martin insisted I tag along. I’m happy that Ted and the others welcomed me. I let them know that I’ve been listening since I was 8 years old, then on my Grandmothers’s RCA floor model radio with the «winking eye» tuning display, but only got licensed a few years ago. I was the only one who knew what the term «mush-mouth» meant!

wtwwTed Randall (WB8PUM) and his family manage WTWW which is located just outside Nashville TN. He put on a roundtable from 8:30pm to 1am broadcast live on WTWW’s 5Mhz transmitter. Ted usually airs a program that he calls his Oldies Music Show but this time, hams were the «oldies».

We were gathered there in the foyer of the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in the Embassy Suites with Ted’s family production crew scrambling to both make the guests comfortable and the show’s electronics unobtrusive. They did both. The GM of Ruth’s Chris gave a live welcome on the broadcast while Charlie Payne of CQ Magazine had food and libations delivered to those participating in the cast. (I'll renew for serveral more years, Charlie, as a token thanks!) A shock was realized the next morning at breakfast when I learned that over 4,000 emails from listerners were sent to the WTWW address in response to Martin’s story about recreating his Novice station and how much he was enjoying that. They were from around the globe. It crashed the email server! Ted WB8PUM said he’s never had such a strong response to a show. Wow! Ted, you’re on to something here…

One thing I saw at the HH was a well-run and well-designed operation. This group works at it. The QRP group holding a «thing» at a state park the night before the formal kick-off is terrific. Craig Behrens (NM4T) leads this «thing» for passionate QRPers who stay in Park cabins and eat very, very well! Just the kind of run-up that made Dayton. They pay attention to what attendees say that works, what doesn’t, and what might be added. (I'm still lobbying for the Rocket City Rednecks to make an appearance and shoot something into the sky… it's Huntsville, after all!). I don’t get the idea that they do things last-minute or play any particular brand of politics except the politics of making the HH a better 'fest.

When I returned home after dropping Martin Jue off at the MFJ factory in StarkVegas---teasing him that he had a factory or three full of amateur radio gear but he was the most tickled at his purchase of a Ten Tec Argosy and a Heathkit HW QRP rig---I caught up on my day job of being Editor-in-Chief for Spatial Demography at Springer Media in The Netherlands. I usually stream either a podcast or HF from a websdr.org station. I watched/listened to the latest episode of Ham Radio Now by Gary Pearce (KN4AQ). Gary was ticked about the HH---he didn’t attend this year---but tried to make it smooth in his presentation. I posted the following note on eHam in a Hamfests Forum thread about the HH and bits of it on a Facebook wall thread where the HH folks were accused of playing «politics» by not granting KN4AQ a «media pass»:

«There was some kickback from Gary Pearce who produces and publishes Ham Radio Now as he waited until the Monday of the hamfest to try and rent a booth to do interviews. HH had long been sold out. According to Gary, he tried to get a «media pass» and was turned down and the HH Coordinator would not allow Gary to record the Form presentations for his use on HRN. He wasn’t very happy about that and said so in his latest HRN podcast, admitting he was late trying to join the party, but that the HH official that he spoke with asked him if he was making money on his Forum recordings. He said yes. HH said no.

Hmm…Gary's TAPR videos are very enjoyable and have TAPR’s blessing. Personally I enjoy watching them. Gary may do some at Dayton too… but I don’t know the details about their relationship. HH had their local vendor, who recreates their entire store at the HH and is a big supporter of the Hamfest, did a video «talk TV» format streamcast with an audience seating area, a stage, and superb media production equipment. Tom Medlin W5KUB had his usual table area for his streamcast. They made arrangements months in advance of the show. However, Ted Randall was not allowed to have his speakers turned on for his table area interviews and was not allowed to host his live broadcast on WTWW in the Von Braun Arena. He did it in the foyer of the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at adjoining Embassy Suites with the blessing of the General Manager who welcomed the WTWW audience to Ruth’s Chris. Charlie Payne of CQ Magazine kindly catered snacks and libations from Ruth’s Chris to those in the roundtable event.

So Gary was late in trying to make arrangements and HH said no on the Form recordings. Is that good or bad? Some Forum presenters might not want to appear on a competing podcast… I'm thinking of Bob Heil, co-host of HamNation, for instance. And certainly not without the presenter’s consent. HH officials might feel that video podcasts of their Forums might lead to reduced attendance, but I don’t know. What I do know is that they have a great and growing hamfest. Gary does a good service in what he does and tries to recover some of his costs. But that should not come as a presumption that every hamfest wants that «service». I hope Gary gets his act together next year and negotiates the access he desires with the HH officials. But I plan to be there if at all possible so it doesn’t matter to me as I’ll see the Forums I choose to attend in person!

73 folks and no trolling, please. The aura of a great hamfest shouldn’t be spoiled! Wink Now, I’ve got to go test and tune-up my UHF GM300 I bought for $5 at the HH.«

Now I’ve never seen a «media pass» badge at the HH. I’ve seen a Vendor badge and an Exhibitor badge. But not a «Media» badge. So I’m not sure if they even have such a thing. (Note: I was News Director at then WXLX-1060 and AP Bureau Chief back in the mid-seventies and an investigative reporter consultant to the WSJ in Atlanta more recently. I’ve held «news media» credentials before.) But Gary chose to do a mini-rant about it… and another on a competing podcast which he tends to do with some frequency (Linux in the Ham Shack).

IMG_1239edited

Leo W6TWT

As I said above, I really enjoy much of the content published by KN4AQ on the HRN video channel. I thought he was going to be a permanent fixture on the Ham Nation podcast on the TWiT Network de Leo Leporte. Back then, it was a gleam in the eye of Leo and Bob Heil. Now, it’s a fixture. Gary’s earlier work producing videos of forums at TAPR and elsewhere made him a go-to video technician. He had the equipment and worked in advertising in Chicago years ago before he relocated to the Raleigh NC area. Not sure why he left Chicago. Probably the same reason that so many have left the Rust Belt for the Sunny South. (Note: back in my commercial FCC license days in radio, I dreamed of doing the voice-over that aired only at midnight on Saturdays for WLS Radio: «W-L-S…Getting It Said for Chicago!) So Gary was a visible ham to involve in the budding HamNation podcast. After a few episodes, he disappeared. I don’t really know why.

bsm-logo-blackIn watching HRN, however, I realized that Gary brings it up repeatedly. Almost every episode there’s some mention of HN. Or another podcast, like Linux in the Hamshack. The LitHS podcast has been on for a number of years with varying cast members. It gives a unique focus in emphasizing the Linux OS for amateur radio use. They do not attempt to be the formal style but rather laugh a lot, at themselves mostly, and goof off on the air with various music bumpers and even favorite cooking recipes! That’s kinda actually what KN4AQ suggests his fellow podcasters do… not try to be «professional» as the Ted Baxter character in the old television series WKRP in Cincinnati did so famously. But Gary just had to bring up their «rip-and-read» style of giving the news. It ain’t Newsline with Don Wilbanks folks but it’s just a couple of hams and a YL putting on a show.

Now I was puzzled. So I’ve gone back and watched the old HN episodes with Gary followed by the before and after episodes of ARVN/HRN sync’d with the timeline of the HN podcast. Here’s what one viewer sees.

Gary does a good job in his co-hosting segments from a technical point of view. (Note: back in the stopwatch and grease pencil days of video editing, I did my share on both sides of the camera.) I did notice that on Leo Leporte’s TWiT Network-owned Ham Nation podcast, there was considerable promotion of Gary’s own commercial products (ARVN DVDs, etc.). That’s often ver boten unless there is some prior agreement with the management of a podcast to allow cross-promotion. (Note: this appears to be the case with HN and ALTV.) It is certainly something that anyone with prior professional experience in advertising in the media would be aware of and be sensitive to in this case. Then Gary was no longer involved in Ham Nation. Since that time, HRN episodes often contains what might be only described as «snarky» references to HN and the Amateur Logic TV podcast:

(from www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/snarky
adjective \ˈsnär-kē\
Definition of SNARKY

1: crotchety, snappish
2: sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner <snarky lyrics>

Origin of SNARKY

dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate
First Known Use: 1906
Related to SNARKY
Synonyms
choleric, crabby, cranky, cross, crotchety, fiery, grouchy, grumpy, irascible, peevish, perverse, pettish, petulant, prickly, quick-tempered, raspy, ratty, short-tempered, snappish, snappy, irritable, snippety, snippy, stuffy, testy, waspish

I went back to the ARN episode where KN4AQ interviewed George W5JDX and Tommy N5ZNO in Huntsville, no less, about their long-running Amateur Logic TV podcast. There just seemed to be a burr under Gary’s saddle in his approach to George and Tommy. One that the rider may really try to hide but the winces and snarls reveal them as present nonetheless. A shame, really. As a friend said over BBQ: «hams are shore bad for fighting.» The continual «snark» at HN for one reason or another would be considered in the military as «conduct unbecoming» of an officer. And implicitly holding oneself up as the arbiter of what’s good podcast style, mode, and presentation sort of evokes the inevitable question, at least in the minds of viewers: who died and made you King, Gary?

My hope is that Gary will quietly do what he seems to ask others to do and not take umbrage at this post. My post here is certainly not meant to inflame the situation because I watch/listen to all of these podcasts. Honestly, I enjoy them all for what they are rather than what they are not. That is, I truly hope that KN4AQ will engage in a bit of self-reflection on the snark. If there were any politics in the HH officials' lack of desire to give special treatment to HRN---and I’m not at all sure there was on their part---it could be this very element of his podcast but that’s merely a hunch.

I like HRN and really, really enjoy much of the content from guests on the show as well as the Forum recordings when organizations want them recorded by an independent holder of the recordings' usage. Not all do and not all presenters would consent to that. Gary does a quality job in the technical production. But all podcasters can improve, right? That certainly applies to yours truly as a sometimes blogger and former participant in the ICQ Podcast! Peace be with you all!

Updated: October 7, 2015 — 12:46 pm
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