If you’d asked if I wanted to “hop on Zoom real quick” prior to March 2020, I would’ve answered, “Is that a Mazda reference?” (Zoom, zoom — get it?)
Now, of course, I practically have a PhD in the video conferencing software; a bachelor’s at the very least. 2020 made me that way: I spent a lot of time chatting in meetings and interviews and tuning into town halls over Zoom.
(By the way, when I write ‘Zoom,’ apply it to all video software. Chalk it up to brevity, but it definitely became Alex Hoeft’s Most Used Verb and Noun of 2020™.)
All fun and games, but really (and Zoom fatigue aside) the platform has kept humans in touch over a year of physical distancing. Pew Research Center reported last December that 81% of employed adults working from home all or most of the time used video calling.
Moonshine Ink certainly falls into that camp. I’m incredibly proud that our small-but-mighty newspaper has managed to publish a full year of print editions and ramping up online reporting from the comfort of each of our own homes. A lot of that is thanks to constant communication through Zoom (to be fair, WhatsApp messaging played a big role, too).
We’ve also hosted six community conversations, Tahoe Talks, using the platform. There’s no way we could’ve gotten the same amount and clout of people in the same room at the same time if Zoom wasn’t on the table. Check out our April 5 installment that is all about the local economy, titled “If Not Tourism, Then What,” online at moonshineink.com/tahoe-talks.
Local governments have grabbed Zoom by the horns, too. Consider what Placer County Supervisor Cindy Gustafson mentioned to me recently: “One of the benefits of Covid is it’s easier to conduct and host public workshops or town halls because you can do it virtually. We’re getting a lot of engagement through these processes where people can stay home and comment and question versus actually [going] somewhere to a public meeting.” (Participation certainly came into play during recent Truckee town council meetings about accessory dwelling units.)
I’ll admit, the feeling of being part of a standing-room-only crowd at a public meeting and the emotion that comes with it is somewhat lessened over the tech-waves. In a February 2020 Seattle City Council meeting, for example, residents actually stood up and sung a ballad protesting a new apartment building during public comment. That’s the power of the people right there. Internet lag, mute buttons, and other obstacles common to virtual meetings would certainly have taken a bite out of such camaraderie.
In the future, I’m sure we’ll see a healthy mix of the folks both actually at meetings and lurking in the wings. But let’s give credit where it’s due: The Zoom revolution has allowed community members to participate more easily in local government meetings.
Here’s to a platform that made a lot of jobs and public processes possible in spite of a global pandemic. Zoom, zoom.