“How to do more with less: The less that you do, do better.”

Where did I come across that idea? Yep, one of my children, of course. It is so cool and gratifying in a sense to receive one’s continuing education from those you educated. They are my legacy, and it is comforting to know with quiet satisfaction and stillness, that I have this closure, so early. Thank you, Hans, Amelia, and Carl.

We are all in uncharted territory trying to figure out what we are dealing with in this pandemic. It reminds me of Plato’s parable of the blind men and the elephant. What we know and understand depends on which part of the elephant we have touched, so our understanding evolves each day with each experience, and it is different for each one of us.

To a limited degree, time and history are teachers we can turn to for help. From a business point of view, we recall past recessions and past economic malaise. The world financial crash of 2008 felt like the end of the economic world as we knew it. For months, there was absolutely no end in sight. Everything just kept getting worse. The event was catastrophic, uncontrollable, and felt like a runaway locomotive barreling down the track at 100 miles per hour. But it passed. Somehow, we kept going because we collectively — worldwide —pulled together and did what was necessary to survive.

On a local level, I recall that we had to take drastic measures. We made big cuts everywhere we could and shut down our prized new paper that we had worked so hard to launch and which was beginning to thrive — the Gwinnett Herald. But we did what we had to and kept moving forward one step at a time, one day at a time.

It was the same thing a few years prior to the great financial crisis, during yet another recession. This one cost us our business newspaper, The Business Post, and our Lake Lanier Herald which was delivered across three counties around the lake. I remember that vividly because I was the one driving and delivering most of those papers each week.

Time travels in great repeating arcs.

So, when I heard that the pandemic was taking the newest news competitor in our market out of the game — they were shutting down — I was not surprised. Initially when they announced their entry into our market, I remember wondering what they were thinking. This is one of the most competitive markets in the country. How could they miss that?

I also recall speculating about how I would feel if, in fact, they didn’t make it. I had anticipated that I would feel possibly validated or relieved or something like that, but when I heard the news, I only felt introspective and a sense of loss.

“No one should ever feel good because someone else feels bad.“

While doing more with less is now the order of the day for business in general, it has been the marquee business model for newspapers for at least a decade. This pandemic is just making it worse.

A few weeks ago, we started advertising to hire reporters. I’ve now seen resumes from over 100 applicants with more arriving daily. There are so many incredibly talented reporters available and hungry to write — to be productive, to contribute, to have a reason to get up in the morning.

According to son Carl, about a third of all the reporters in the United States now work for two companies —The New York Times and Washington Post. That is, two newspapers now employ a third of the universe of “all” working reporters. That is something so dark to me. It feels ominous. It feels threatening. But I’m a news guy.

“Aren’t we all in some way though, news guys?

As I approach the end of this column, maybe I am feeling a different part of Plato’s elephant. It occurs to me that “doing more with less” maybe isn’t just limited to business. Maybe it better applies — with a twist — to everybody’s life in general right now.

“Doing more with less” may more accurately mean “living differently,” as opposed to “doing more,” and the “less” may not so much refer to available resources as much as our current circumstance — “less structure, less security, less closure, and, um, less freedom.”

We shall have to wait and see for that answer.

Ray is the Publisher Emeritus for Appen Media and the Herald newspapers.

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