A journalist acquaintance talked about covering a trial recently. Life being the way it is these days he had to watch from his home via Zoom. The trial was very emotional on all sides. He recalled having covered many trials during his career and was always in the court room. This time the experience was so different. At the trials he could see and experience the emotion—the sobbing from the victim’s relatives, the passion of the attorneys, the defendant’s look of helplessness, the tension from the jury. There were none of those feelings from watching the Zoom, but there was something else. For the first time he could watch a trial seeing all the key participants equally. Each had their own square on the screen. Each could be highlighted with a frame and drawn to the viewer’s attention whenever they spoke. Zoom was not the same as being there in person, but it was not worse either. He saw a story from different perspectives, one that had been there all along but was not easily visible—the individual passion of those effected by the outcome. Plus, he did not have to travel to and from the courthouse.
It was around a year ago this week when a fellow employee stuck her head into my office and said proudly that she had just learned to do Zoom. To do what? I replied. The video conference technology had been around for a while, but it was not widespread. Before long, with coaching from our tech guy, I too was using it. Soon the Z word became an oft-spoken part of our everyday language and essential to our work lives. I doubt if there has been a day in my life since last mid-March without a Zoom moment. My personal best, I believe, was four Zoom events in one day, but I hesitate to say that because I know that there are many zoomers to whom only four in a day is just warming up.
Zoom’s explosion reminds me of our Hurricane Katrina exile when someone referred to sending a “text message.” Sending a what? iPhones and laptops were around back then but still not at the level of everybody having one of each. We learned quickly. The Marksville Walmart became our new electronics purchase center.
Tragedy has a way of hastening technology; but what if the technology would not have been there? Imagine the past year without Zoom. Imagine having to go into the office for meetings and then standing separated. Imagine distance being irrelevant so that it doesn’t matter where in the world a person is as long as their video works. Imagine relatives spread across the country singing happy birthday to a one year old to whom Zoom has been a part of natural life.
One of our publications, Biz New Orleans, held a conference call via Zoom, during the week in which different executives talked about their business. One participant, a real estate agent, mentioned the demand in the residential market of the future. A couple of times he used the term “Zoom room.” Get ready, that too is becoming a part of our everyday language the same way house hunters once spoke about wanting a den.
We need to brace ourselves, for the future is moving quickly. The word “zoom” seems awkwardly appropriate.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 9:30 A.M. SUNDAYS.WYES-TV, CH. 12.