Or at least that’s how it feels. And that’s how it feels all day long here on the Purdue campus where the WJOB studios are located. We brought our heritage radio station here to be around people, to hire interns from the communications department, to develop a venture capital community, to have some fun.
Now, there is none of this. The dozen or so interns and part-times who brought their brilliance here have been gone since St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. Also gone are Debbie Wargo, Ryan Walsh, Sam Michel and Tony Panek. The five of us full-times ran this place and the Purdue interns and others filled in the remaining purpose… which has been since 1923 or 1924 to nourish our community.
Nourishment is tough to come by these days. We are in the middle of the corona virus pandemic. Restaurants are closed, churches are empty, school bells don’t ring. We are holed up in our homes, apartments, condos, shelters hotel rooms. We are sectioned off into families and into singular people living a loneliness you can only know in the wilderness… or in the middle of corona. In short, it’s tough times.
On Friday, the unemployment number came out and 14.7 percent of people looking for work are without work, 25-million of them filing for benefits for the first time in the last month. You can feel the silence of strong men and women waking early to coffee and news… only to sit at the kitchen table all day taking in copious amounts of both.
On Fridays up until St. Paddy’s Day, I would do the morning show, host a community programming show, and then by 9am I’d be on my way to exercise class. I’d come back in the afternoon and deal with the details that come with running a couple of radio stations and a budding TV network, then I’d go home about 3pm and take a nap til my wife got home from work. It was a satisfying if not overly challenging routine.
It’s a routine that has gone out the window. On St. Paddy’s Day, our worlds collapsed. Yours, mine and everyone else we know. And if you’re a broadcasting student 50 years from now, your world collapsed too. I hope you’re alive to read this. I hope you understand the gravity of what is happening right now.
Since St. Paddy’s Day, I have been the only person who walks in the building… except for a woman from the cleaning service and a stray from Purdue. It’s just me. I had to learn how to start up all the cameras – which I’ll be doing in a few minutes as soon as I’m finished here - and turn off the radio station’s satellite and turn on the lighting system. It’s a major operation to run a live radio program. It’s a major operation to run a live TV program. To do them both is like flying a plane.
I have adjusted. I answer the phone lines directly on the air. There is no Ryan to screen, to ask who it is, what they want to talk about, and then type it into a computer which shows up in front of me.
“Let’s go to Deb on line 599 who wants to talk about traffic on the Boulevard.”
Now, I answer the phone like this – “You’re on the air. Who are you?”
It’s a drop in the level of professionalism. But what we lose in refinement we gain in rawness. I am here alone, for better or worse. I am alone except for you… and you and you. The three or four of us who get together for this blog are joined by three or four more on radio and TV and we are one. We are one.
Now, I work all day and into the night. I was here last night, a Sunday, until 8:30pm setting things up for today. I’ll interview Bobby Cox, the head of the IHSAA, on Zoom and Johnny Craig from Calumet College, among others. And I’ll talk on the phone with you or people like you who love the Calumet Region and I’ll play a few HeyJEDs and then at 10am I’ll do a NIISSA update on the state of corona in northwest Indiana.
At noon, I’ll talk with Dr. Kondamuri about holistic living while you’re locked up at home. At. 1:30, we’ll welcome governor Eric Holcomb. At 2:15, I’ll do a show with the Cow Guy. It’s a beautiful if not slightly exhausting rotation. Then I’ll go home and eat something and spend a few hours getting ready for tomorrow. It’s different. It’s more work. But it’s what I need to be doing. It’s a destiny to be here, present, laughing, sniffling, cajoling, berating, encouraging…. Loving those who come to share the airwaves and the video with me.
Enough on that. There’s dead air right now. I should have fired up some music and given the weather seven minutes ago. I just wanted to say a few words to the three or four of you and to the broadcasting students who stumble on this blog 50 years from now. It’s dark, very dark. But there are now more cars zooming by the window. People are starting to go back to work. Today’s the day Lake County, Indiana, officially enters “Stage 2” of the corona virus “hunkering down of Hoosiers,” as Holcomb puts it. Government offices can start opening up. Pretty soon you’ll be able to get a haircut. This doesn’t mean the virus is under control. Quite the contrary. It just means you can get your nosehairs trimmed and argue with a live person about your water bill. You still might get corona virus and wind up in the hospital. Talk soon.