A reader of this blog recently asked me if things would one day return to “normal.” They said that over the past ten years, they’ve moved beyond wondering “why” there have been so many massive changes and disruptions in our lives, pondering now if things will ever settle down.
Will we ever get back to “normal,” or is this our “new normal?”
Is it possible, “never normal,” is where we are headed?
If you look up “normal” in the dictionary, you will see that as a noun “normal” is defined as “the usual, average or typical state or condition.”
What do you consider “normal” temperature for where you live? What do you consider average as the amount of time you interact with other people? What is the typical state or condition of your car?
When we think about “normal” in this way, we quickly realize that temperatures are constantly changing; by the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year, and so on. When we apply that to personal interactions with others, again you’re probably thinking to yourself things like, are we talking about a weekday, weekend, holiday, vacation etc. And when it comes to your car, its condition changes with every mile you put on the odometer.
In other words, “normal” means things are constantly changing.
When Were Things Ever Normal?
When you really start to think about the concept of “normal,” you quickly realize this thing called normal never existed.
What we have are periods in our lives when things are going well (and we like to think this is “normal”) and other periods where things are completely FUBAR*(we call these times “not normal”).
The truth is, normal life is constant change.
History doesn’t repeat, but often rhymes.
Do you think the village blacksmith wondered as cars drove down the streets past his shop, when this “fad” would end and people would return to riding horses or in carriages pulled by horses? I’m sure he did.
In April 1860, pony express moved mail across the country faster than ever before, but for only 18-months before it was then replaced by the wired telegraph.
As wireless telegraphy was born, the wired telegraph would see its challenges.
Morse Code, with the dots & dashes communication method of the telegraph, saw its demise with the transmission of voice and music through the ether.
Television would add pictures to radio’s sound, leading many to predict the end of radio. But radio didn’t end, it changed with the times and was reborn for a new generation of youth who listened to it for hours on transistor radios.
Then the biggest disruption of all arrived, the iPhone. Now this singular device has replaced your cellphone, typewriter, camera, video camera, radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, computer, tablet, flashlight, credit cards, keys, tape recorder, note pad, iPod, GPS, blood pressure monitor and more that I’m sure I’m forgetting about.
Having an iPhone or similar Android device many would call the “new normal.” It’s almost hard to consider a world where, it too, has been replaced by something even better and more essential to our lives.
You Can’t Go Back
I first heard this advice when I was taking a film making course in college. My instructor told the class, be sure you get every shot you need when you’re out filming your movie, because you can’t ever go back and shoot something you missed at a future date. Things change, and nothing will be like it was, the first time you were there.
My film was about glass blowing. The day I was to film the making of a glass vase, the glass blower welcomed me. He was sporting long hair and a beard. The molten glass he was working with that day was green and produced a lovely green glass vase.
I filmed every part of the process of making a vase, from the liquid molten glass in the furnace to the rolling, blowing, shaping, cutting and cooling of the glass into a finished product.
I was so grateful to the glassblower for allowing me to come to his shop and film him that I bought that green glass vase.
Back when I was in school, filming was really shooting on film, 16mm film. That meant shipping the undeveloped film off to Kodak for processing and then waiting for the film to return so I could view it and begin the process of editing the footage into a final 15-minute film.
It wasn’t until I was viewing the rough footage that I discovered some of my shots were out-of-focus. There was simply no way to complete my film without some key parts of the process included.
So, I called up the glass blower and made an appointment to come back to his shop and film those sections I needed.
When I arrived, he had shaved off his beard, gotten a crew cut, and was now working with purple glass.
My instructor, unbeknownst to me, would buy that second purple glass vase to give to me for Christmas that year and to bring home the point that I indeed, “could not go back.” Things always change.
If you’re really honest with yourself, you want change in your life. You want to learn new things, see new movies and TV shows, hear new music, visit new places, watch your children grow up and so much more.
We want change that makes us happy, we don’t want change that doesn’t.
I seriously doubt anyone would want to give up their smartphone that’s connected to the internet, no matter how much we may pine for simpler times.
Change in our lives, is like normal in our lives, it’s individually defined. Others may look at our life and call it abnormal.
Normal is change from sunrise to sunset. Normal is changes in weather and seasons. Normal is also pandemics, being a cycle that can span decades or a century.
What Does This Have to Do with Radio/TV?
OK, this is a blog where I write about radio/TV and you may wonder what any of what I wrote so far has to do with broadcasting, well here it comes.
Jeffrey Katzenberg put it this way, “One thing that’s happened to me in 45-years of being in Hollywood, and in this industry is, I’ve never seen an instance where real quality entertainment hasn’t found an audience.”
While some say “Radio is dead,” or more specifically “AM Radio is dead,” this past April we saw that AM Radio (WOR) was #1 on Long Island, AM Radio (KFI) was #1 in Los Angeles, AM Radio (WBBM) was #1 in Chicago, AM Radio (KCBS) was #1 in San Francisco, AM Radio (WSB) was #1 in Atlanta, and AM Radio (WWJ) was tied for #1 in Detroit. I’m sure there are others, but I think you get my point.
Mr. Katzenberg has it right, when you provide content that people want, they will find you, even if it’s on the AM Radio Dial.
Change is normal and wanting to hold on to the past that has been romanticized in our memories, is normal.
But what never changes is people are born, they age, and they die.
Success belongs to those who can touch the most hearts with their product or service, and make a difference in their lives.
The only way RADIO or TV will lose, is if they do it to themselves.
Broadcasting holds the keys to its success in its own hands.
Will they use them to unlock all they are capable of?
*FUBAR is a military term that means out of working order; seriously, perhaps irreparably, damaged. For a more literal definition of this acronym, Google FUBAR.