Three day holiday weekends are nothing new. But this one feels different.
It's the first long weekend since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, and my sense is that in spite of the fact there are fewer things on our docket over the next few days, we need it.
It's been an arduous, difficult, and stressful period for all of us, no matter whether you're working, or whether you've been displaced or replaced. The simplest tasks – grocery shopping up, gassing up the car, or even going out for a walk or a run – have become exponentially more stressful.
Wearing a mask, social distancing, and being more aware of the world and the people around us are all on the front burner now. We have constant decisions to make that have the potential to impact ourselves, our families, our co-workers, and perfect strangers.
That's why this Memorial Day Weekend comes at a moment in time we're likely to remember. Jacobs Media has now wrapped up its second COVID-19 research study for commercial, public, and Christian music radio stations from coast to coast. Please excuse the baseball analogy, but more and more, this feels like the start of the “second inning” of our encounter with this deadly virus.
First, the “Lockdown.” Now, the “Re-opening.”
We are all edgy and angsty about whether America will pass this test. Neither the scientists, the politicians, or just plain folks can tell us with any degree of assurance what will happen next.
We do know this: nearly 100,000 Americans have died as a result of this virus in less than 90 days. That equals the number of deaths this country suffered in the Korean and Vietnam Wars – combined.
Many forget or never knew this holiday – originally called Decoration Day – was established to honor those who died in the Civil War back in the 1860's.
More than a century later in 1971, Congress redefined Memorial Day as a national holiday, honoring those who lost their lives in all the wars Americans have fought since those days when Union and Confederate soldiers fought each other on our own soil.
At the risk of offending those who have served and sacrificed in these many battles over the years, I wonder how we will honor those who have died – and will eventually lose their lives – as this global pandemic plays itself out. We will have to find a way to remember them in the coming years and decades, and perhaps Memorial Day will be redefined once again.
The history of this holiday is about honoring those who have served on the front lines of past wars. These soldiers – and their families deserve our acknowledgment and utmost respect. They protected us when we needed it the most.
And yet, many have called COVID-19 a war – perhaps with a vastly different type of enemy. Today's “soldiers” are wearing different uniforms than their military counterparats from the past.
But they are the “frontliners” of the COVID-19 war we're fighting now.
Certainly, health care workers are leading the charge, but so, too, are law enforcement officers and firefighters. Then there's the “essential workers” putting their lives on the line, serving us food, stocking our shelves, transporting goods, and other important duties. They also deserve our gratitude and thanks.
And what about radio‘s frontline workers – our airstaffs? They're the face of radio – literally. They are the voices our listeners, our advertisers, and our communities hear – the ones we count on and rely on.
Most have made sacrifices these past many weeks, often broadcasting from strange locations or working alone in buildings largely unoccupied. While the rest of wring our hands and fret about what's next in this war, they turn on their mics to entertain, inform, and distract us – all critically important functions.
Our second COVID-19 study included a new question this time around – inquiring as to whether core listeners feel an even stronger connection with their favorite stations since the onset of the virus:
As much as programmers and managers might want to enjoy some accolades for a majority indicating an even stronger bond with their preferred stations, it's the “frontline workers” – our on-air talent – that are the workers also enduring the same pressures we all are. In many cases, that means working from their residences, home schooling, social distancing, and feeling the same roller coaster of emotions as the pandemic does what it does.
But they're tasked with sounding warm, comfortable, familiar, and reassuring – even if they don't really share those feelings in this pressure-packed environment.
Radio personalities are often doing their jobs with less resources, fewer staffers, and even less direction, guidance, and assurances than usual. And yet, they are representing radio's resilience, energy, ability, and purpose to a public looking for reliable information or even a few laughs.
So, please this weekend, remember those in the military and their loved ones who have fought to protect us over the years. They are the essence of why we celebrate Memorial Day. But also acknowledge those engaged in the very different war we are engaged in at this pivotal moment in time.
All of us at Jacobs Media wish you a calm, peaceful, and restful few days before we all return to our desks, studios, basements, or spare bedrooms on Tuesday. We'll be back with a fresh blog post that morning.
Peace and safety to all.