Over the last 10 weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to a stand-still some of the biggest sports, entertainment and political events of 2020. Perhaps more importantly, the full negative impact from the cancellation of such events on the economy remains to be seen but is very significant. This is especially so regarding the television advertising business. The industry has lost the Summer Olympics, March Madness and NCAA events, the NBA Season, Wimbledon, MLB Spring Training and Opening Day, countless big-name concerts, political candidate debates and gatherings, and the Democrat Convention in Milwaukee is postponed to mid-August, just to name a few. Without these big engines to drive television advertising sales, ad revenue for 2020 is estimated by Barron’s to be down 40+%, and will obviously continue to decline the longer the pandemic continues.
As a television station licensee, this challenging reality has had me working and praying as hard as I can to preserve my business, reduce overhead and most importantly, to limit the impact on my employees and co-workers, and the communities we serve. Against these difficulties, I was beginning to feel uncertain, wondering why and how a single virus could wreak such havoc, and if we were going to be able to get through it all.
That’s when I came across William H. McNeill’s “Plagues and Peoples,” which provides an epidemiological history from the Neolithic era through the 20th Century. The book goes into detail about how microbes have had more of an effect on the course of human history than all of the leaders, tyrants, invasions, political movements and ‘isms’ combined. That gave me perspective.
Pandemics have always been and will always be with us. We are not separate from the natural world, but like all living things we are part of it. What is happening today is as old as the plagues in Egypt during the time of Moses, the bubonic, smallpox and measles epidemics of the Ancient and Middle Ages, and the typhoid, cholera, polio, and influenza outbreaks of the Modern Era. Of course, they seem worse now because there are billions more people who are impacted. High-speed travel also accelerates how viruses and disease spread around the world. What once took months or years, now takes only hours or days.
We will nevertheless get through this. We are great people. We stand on a bedrock of sound institutions, the rule of law and the free enterprise system. Our highly skilled citizens work hard and will rebound once this virus abates, which will happen as long as we stand firm now and do not look for easy answers or quick fixes. Getting back to normal will happen after the virus has abated, starved of human hosts and human victims. So like so many of my fellow Americans, I have resolved to move forward one day at a time and to guide my businesses accordingly, with a focus on service and collegiality.
Prior generations of Americans faced long odds and tough challenges. We will do likewise and together we’ll get through this and see our country and economy come back stronger than ever.
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