Commentary: The Year In A Blender

A year full of absolute insanity. A pandemic shut the world down. A people asked for justice and equity in society. Elections that challenged several nations. 

History will examine this year closely. Yet, it would be that history simply repeating itself from decades before. The world dealt with a deadly pandemic similar to this one over a century ago. The fight for equity has its roots centuries ago, thanks to global greed and arrogance. There have been many elections gone contested with personalities that were divergent to spark a deeper division among its populace. 

As a member of the automotive media corps, all of this had an effect on the work I do.

Shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way automotive media professionals work – as did everyone else. If we had an office to go to, that no longer existed. They joined those of us who work from home already. 

We no longer had auto shows to attend – except for Auto China in Beijing. We had manufacturers restrict access to their vehicle fleets for everyone's protection. Our media junkets were reduced, with safety guidelines in place for those who did attend them. 

Photo by Randy Stern

Our lifestyles changed. The way we consume food, entertainment, sports, and information were now primarily done from the comfort of our home. The way we educate ourselves and our children had to rely on being at home – at the whim of our internet connection. 

Yet, we ventured out a bit. Some governments allowed us to go to get food and groceries, visit our healthcare teams, and go to work to our essential jobs – for those of us who had them. 

Meanwhile, our emotional/behavioral/mental wellbeing had been challenged. We were a planet on edge. Not just here in the USA, but we saw many moments of anger and frustration played out on the streets of world’s major cities – even right here in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. 

To add to our stress, we lost many people in our lives. Some to the pandemic; others for various reasons. Parents, children, and friends who contracted the virus that never made it out of the ICU. Our childhood heroes passed on at their advanced ages. People who lived a completely different life than others were killed for being who they were. Each death had deeper significance than usual because of the circumstances of this particular year. 

What a year. I can’t believe we made it this far. I also can’t believe that I made it along with the rest of you. 

Photo by Dave Nemo Weekends/SiriusXM Road Dog Trucking for Victory & Reseda

It was a heck of a challenge. Little did I know that after doing a radio interview at the Twin Cities Auto Show that we would enter our first shutdown. It actually happened right as the show was going on. Minnesota state Governor Tim Walz went on the air and pretty much said "game over." 

And, yet, I was looking forward to a lot of great things happening in this work. I already accomplished a bit of work through that second weekend in March. I was practically on a roll. That first shutdown slowed my roll. I thought my game was over. My consulting work was reduced very significantly. One outlet did not accept new work from me. My overall income was reduced by up to 75 percent. 

Instead of giving up, I went to work. I began to create solid content for this website. I’ve always had for almost ten years and more. However, something was different in the way I approached it. Each new article was produced with a purpose and intent on ensuring that I published relevant content for you.

With this intent, I began to challenge myself. The vehicles returned. A long-planned road trip was taken. I got to meet a vehicle from a soon-to-be-arriving-into-showrooms manufacturer. And, I awarded my 14th #VOTY

The results of this work came as a surprise to me. You actually read every article on this site! 

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor North America

By the end of October, site traffic was increasing. In fact, I recorded my highest monthly traffic numbers in six years. In the ten months of 2020, I surpassed annual the site’s traffic numbers with the exception of a couple of years – 2012 and 2014. 

In this unusual year of staying at home and self-quarantining, you found this site. You perused the content. Some say that you had no choice. If you actually had no choice in doing so, would it be proper to say "thank you" for reading this website?

As I look forward to 2021, three benchmarks will be celebrated. First, I will be marking my 20th year as a content creator, journalist, and media professional. My start as a Managing Editor of a small lifestyle website introduced this career for me. It also became a springboard to create automotive content on that site, as well as other subsequent outlets. 

Then, we celebrate V&R’s 10th anniversary this spring. I hope we can do something. If it has to fit some sort of guidelines at that time, then it could be adopted. If not, we will find a way to celebrate. Make no mistake, there is cause to celebrate!

Photo courtesy of General Motors for Victory & Reseda

Lastly, I want to award a 15th #VOTY. If there is one thing that brings a little sunshine to this work, it is the process of going from evaluation scoring to delivering the award to its worthy recipient. 

These three benchmarks may seem trivial to you. They are significant to me. It shows how I have weathered failures and blown opportunities to get that opportunity to work in something that I am passionate about. 

Although, it has not been easy. Nor has it been a smooth process. This work has yielded it detractors and those who think they can do this better with more followers and such. 

In all, rolled with the punches and never got knocked down. I had doors slammed in my face, but I recovered from those rejections. I dealt with some health issues that could have ended my time on this planet, but I bounced back up and went back at it again. 

In the end, I’m still here. Working in a field I love. And, survived a year that could have done more damage to all of us. It was as we were thrown in a blender with a lot of different ingredients to mixed results in taste and consistency.

It was quite the year. 

Cover photo by Randy Stern

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