Hays Comments on Unprecedented Times

Put simply, we are dealing with unprecedented times.

“We are all guilty of overusing the word ‘unprecedented’ since the first of March. At least, I will confess to doing so. In my broadcast career stretching back to the mid-1970s, it is simply like nothing ever before,” said Ron Hays (Radio Oklahoma Network, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) .  

“I saw many of my fellow farm broadcasters at the Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio in early February. Then I jumped into two weeks of travel into South America with the Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program, thus missing many broadcasters at Commodity Classic. When we arrived back in the U.S. on February 29, we observed the early signs of the coming change as we passed through customs in Dallas early that morning. Face masks were not being worn by everybody, but by a lot more than usual,” Hays said.

“Our in-state schedule was busy in early March, and we jumped into high gear as we began coverage of what is known as the world’s largest junior livestock show, the Oklahoma Youth Expo (OYE), which began on March 10. As it began, word came that the Houston Livestock Show was shutting down in the middle of its run because of coronavirus fears. We lived on the edge of closure through Sunday afternoon, March 15, at the OYE when word that a local case of the virus was confirmed in Oklahoma County. Minutes later, we were helping the OYE staff draft a media release announcing the show was done. About 7,000 breeding animals were shown, but the more than 7,000 market animals did not see the show ring,” Hays said.

“For the past six weeks, it has been virtually a totally work-at-home scenario. In recent years, I have produced a lot of my radio broadcasts from a home studio, so that was in place and is where I do all my radio-broadcast work. Work on our website and daily email can be done wherever I have a computer set up. The same goes for my other full-time staffers, NAFB Member KC Sheperd and Market Reporter Dave Lanning.

“We move files around with Dropbox, we do lots of work on Go to My PC, and KC has gotten really good at doing audio interviews on Zoom. I have had a phone coupler setup for a while for my landline and do my interviews that way. Also, I have a JK Audio Blue Driver F3 that allows me to get really good quality when recording cell phone calls to my small Zoom recorder,” Hays added.

“I suspect that I am not alone when I say that we have worked harder and had a larger volume of information coming at us since the stay-at-home orders went into place. Covering the impact of the pandemic on farmers and ranchers has been nonstop. The ag community is paying attention, too, as I have seen higher open rates on our email consistently in recent weeks — more than we have ever had,” Hays said.

“I have met a few industry leaders for in-person interviews, but you can count the number of those on one hand. But, literally, my first event to cover in-person came recently when the Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture invited me to come to a ceremony where she represented the Governor to thank the Diagnostic Lab at the Vet School at Oklahoma State University for its work in adapting and becoming able to test for COVID-19. I was one of 10 people who attended that event. I was the only media person invited. Others were lawmakers, OSU representatives, and ag industry leaders.

“Farm broadcasters are aided in doing their work through the long-standing relationships with our audience that we have established. These relationships make us trusted voices that farmers, ranchers, and the agribusiness community want to hear,” Hayes concluded.

The bottom photo features the home studio of Ron Hays.