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The World Event We All Shared
Tony DeMars, BEA President

From my ‘stay at home’ corner this time, thoughts about what this COVID-19 event has done to us, and for us. We truly now have a global village.

A top thought on my mind has been about opportunities. We know the cliché ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ And when we needed to find new ways to do things, without the benefit of run-throughs or rehearsals, we have done so. If your experiences have been like mine, related to teaching your classes, some ideas have worked and others have not.  I actually enjoy the uncertainty that has come about, and I continue to believe we can find ways this altered way of living day to day can nurture new and better ways to accomplish tasks. In my ‘Broadcast and Online News’ class, we quickly discovered news gatherers can ‘attend’ a City Council meeting that is streamed, and use clips from the audio or video in a story. In an electronic newsgathering process, I can ‘interview’ someone by sending them questions, and (while coaching a bit in some cases) I can get them to send me back some responses and some sound bites. Everyone is more tech-savvy than just a few years ago, and this new form of newsgathering gives us an opportunity to see how these alternative techniques can continue to be used in the future. 

Sitting and working in my normal ‘home workspace’ I have also thought more about what technology means for our lives. I find myself wondering what our media and social media did to define this event compared to a similar event rural 19th Century Americans would have experienced.  My study of my own genealogy opened my eyes to the impact of tuberculosis in the 19th and early 20th centuries, for example, and I wonder how people of that time felt about the unknown, and worried about the personal impact. I can’t know for certain, but I am confident they were better prepared to ‘fend for themselves’ than we are today, since their day-to-day lives were more built around having to meet their own basic needs instead ‘having it delivered.’  Trade-offs are always involved, of course, and we know now that our medical support system, as one difference, is much better than theirs was.

I have also found myself revisiting technological determinism.  I think about Marshall MacLuhan when the term comes to mind, but my review then reminded me of people like Thorstein Veblen, Robert Heilbroner, and Clarence Ayres—not people I think about on a routine basis. Technology changes us as a society, it is a key component of who we are today and who we will be in the future. Is that true? I have been one of those researchers who accepted the premise of technological determinism while not full accepting its absoluteness, so I also find myself thinking of the likes of Emile Durkheim and Raymond Williams and the sociological perspective. This of course is too complex an issue to elaborate on here.

What I do realize in my own personal experiences is that the ‘creating content for an audience, media practitioner and educator’ side of me has been heightened during the COVID-19 event. My researcher sensibilities have been reinvigorated in a new way as well.  I also realize that, unlike almost everything else in our collective lives, we have all experienced this together. And we can take that one step further. One of the biggest opportunities is our upcoming virtual convention, #BEAVirtualVegas. We originally posted starting on April 18th, but have now confirmed a kick-off event starting at ‘Noon Vegas Time’ on Friday, April 17th. Please plan to be involved. The technology will let us still share research and creative work, do our business meetings, and accomplish most of what a convention is designed to do.

Finally, as I write this, my hope is to see us get back to normal sooner than later. And in my ‘glass half full’ desire, I hope in all this experience we have found those new and better ways to accomplish tasks. I hope you can also make the best in your teaching, service, creative work, and/or research from what has been thrust upon us. I’m also always hopeful that life challenges like this help us learn to appreciate each day we have and the people we share our lives with. I am very thankful for having the opportunity to serve as your BEA president this year, and I wish Vic Costello the best as he assumes the position at the end of #BEAVirtualVegas.