What Will You Say?

Ham radio continues to grow in popularity and it seems to be gathering even more interest from curious muggles. It’s no longer an oddity to see dozens of news stories about our hobby splashed from various news reporting services.

Just last night, my wife and I were driving to dinner, and the car radio was tuned to a local channel that has started playing Christmas music around the clock. At some point during a break in the music there was a short public service announcement about amateur radio. I suppose it was sponsored by the local radio club though I can’t be certain — it was an ARRL promotion.

My point is that there is an increasing possibility that one of these days, someone from the local newspaper or TV news station might approach YOU to ask a few questions about your hobby. And while none of us are going to be the perfect ambassador/evangelist/spokesperson for the entire hobby, if that fate should befall you, I hope you’re able to elicit a better headline than what appeared recently in the Des Moines Register:

Men support fading ham radio habit

Overall, the article is interesting and, if you can get past that headline and the initial wave of nausea, it’s not really all that bad. I’m assuming the interviewer who crafted these words was influenced by things shared by those being interviewed:

“But in the age of the smartphone, the amateur radio network is a dwindling hobby whose aging practitioners are the keepers of a fading but potentially still vital means of communication.”

No matter whose responsible for spinning that notion, it’s just flat out wrong. Poppycock. Hokum. There’s nothing “dwindling” about the hobby. The number of licensed hams in the US is at its highest level in history and it continues to enjoy strong growth.

On the air activity has changed significantly from the 1950’s but there are no fewer signals in the spectrum now than at some mythical touchpoint in the past. Forty years ago, its likely this story would never have even appeared in a newspaper as amateur radio was much too small a niche to waste newsprint on.

I’m not kidding, you really do need to prepare for how you’ll respond to a question about your hobby, and not just from someone working in popular media.

Sooner or later, your family, friends, and co-workers are bound to discover that you’re a radio ham. And when they do, someone is invariably going to ask the toughest question. One that’s not on any radio test exam but should be:

“So what do you talk about on the radio?”

This one can be a real stumper and you need to think long and hard about what you will say when it comes up, because it will eventually come up. How you answer will, at a minimum, become the basis for someone’s opinion of amateur radio. And at the very best, your answer might spark an interest that results in yet another new call sign for all of us to work.

What will you say?

This article first appeared in CALLING CQ a weekly letter for amateur radio enthusiasts.

Tagged: media

Jeff Davis, KE9V, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Indiana, USA.

2 Responses to “What Will You Say?”


    Hi Jeff,
    I keep checking the FCC information for new hams in my area just below Princeton,NJ
    I have to be honest and tell you that at this time there are 2 repeaters that have little activity.
    I have 2 HT’s on at all times.
    It was only 5 years ago that I was up all night chatting about anything and even truckers always looked for use.
    All that is gone.
    HF maybe but VHF was nice company and it’s gone now
    BOB AF2Q

  • Peter kg5wy:


    I object!

    (maybe I’m fading, but not ham radio)

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