As the nation starts its 15th month of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, I think it’s time we finally emerge from the Johari window analysis - “known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns” – in which we have been stuck.
Setting aside the eternal conundrum of “unknown unknowns,” and acknowledging we continue to know what we knew, we now also know what we didn’t a year ago, that the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines work, and herd immunity is getting close.
As society, schools, workplaces, etc., open up, the broadcast industry will lead the way. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that leadership matters. This is especially so for those institutions, businesses, families, and schools facing precarious futures. Throughout this tragedy, candor and honesty, sound and factual reporting, and thoughtful and empathetic leadership are the qualities that best serve the public. They are also the leadership traits that will bring back and revive our stressed and flailing communities, schools, and businesses.
So, in all candor, this much is clear: restrictions and harms go hand-in-hand. Nationwide, far too many business owners, especially small businesses, have suffered repeated challenges through various lockdown cycles. Children and young people have been isolated from their friends and that needs to change promptly. In big states like California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York public schools have provided very little, if any, in-person schooling, and mental health issues have skyrocketed. Health workers are exhausted after a year on the front-line. With the vaccines, we can (and must) change these realities, and appreciate that once vaccinated there is little threat of passing the virus on to others.
While the country’s initial focus was to "flatten the curve" and keep patient volume within the capacity of healthcare facilities and services, it is clear that proactively working toward developing and deploying testing and vaccines to eliminate the disease is better from both an economic and a public health perspective. We now have tools that make this possible and must move forward with all due dispatch. The Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed and the Biden Administration's roll out of nationwide vaccination efforts over the last 100 days both deserve credit here. Anything more political at this point just gets in the way, and interferes with sound and factual reporting.
Finally, as people return to the workplace, employers will need caring and thoughtful leadership to not only ensure the quality of their products and/or services, but to serve in many respects as counselors in chief. The COVID-19 tragedy has touched millions in such profound ways that many employees will be returning to work while grieving. Constructive and empathetic leaders understand this and will need to help employees work through their challenges and should also consider changes to policies and procedures to better fit the new normal of their industry workplace. The broadcast industry has generally done a good job in this area, for example, its adjustment to multiple-remote-feeds during news and interview programs, accommodating a variety of productions employees would otherwise have been unable to facilitate.
So let’s close the Johari window, be more ambitious with the known knowns - the vaccines work - build up population immunity and suppress the virus to the lowest possible levels by quickly managing outbreaks as they arise through robust test, trace, isolate and support policies. Let’s make the well-being of our children a priority, and with it, the reopening of in-person schooling. Those actions will initiate a virtuous cycle and help accelerate the return of routines that work for employees and their families, employers, the economy, and the nation.
Armstrong Williams is manager and sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year.
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