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Editor’s Notebook: In times of crisis, we all make decisions on the fly

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MJ

I’m 60 and diabetic.

As a result, I’ve hunkered down at the direction of my wife, who quarantines mail in our garage for three days before it comes inside. I have two sons in the restaurant business who are now unemployed, and I have another son in D.C. who’s editing a TV episode from his apartment and gets detailed feedback via Zoom. I also have an 18-year-old who was freaking out about the implosion of her senior year until she started making friends online with other high-school seniors headed to George Washington University in the fall.

And the dog — MJ, our rescue pittie, who’s skittish under the best of circumstances – is not happy about any of this.

Stories this big tend to fall into one of four categories:

  • Straight news coverage – who, what, where, when, and why.
  • The “We’re all in this together” theme.
  • The Chicken Little theme, essentially “the sky is falling,” which in many cases it is.
  • The “Be helpful” theme that offer advice (Voices From the Crisis and Guest Columns fall into this group for us).

We’ve been trying to balance our use of these themes for the past two weeks. We publish e-newsletters linking to that day’s stories and updates (you can subscribe on our homepage or at delawarebusinesstimes.com/newsletter). We’ve created a landing page that captures all our coronavirus stories (delawarebusinesstimes.com/coronavirus). We’ve removed our paywall. And we’ve more than tripled the number of stories we normally publish online over similar timeframes, which left us with tough decisions when the time came to choose what stays and what goes in the printed newspaper.

But that’s what everyone is doing. You’re all making decisions on the fly without data or precedents to rely on. When doing that, we all make assumptions. We assume readers are aware that closing down restaurants’ dine-in service has been devastating – with or without takeout/delivery service – so we didn’t include that story but we did include one on the Delaware Restaurant Association’s terrific relief efforts.

We assume readers already know that some “non-essential” businesses will never reopen, and that “essential” businesses may struggle to recapture customers so we’re focusing more on how you can avoid one and do the other. We didn’t need to talk about layoffs as many of you lie awake at night worrying about that. We assume you don’t need us predicting when this will be over. And you don’t need to be reminded that just as more than 40% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, the same is true for many small businesses that rely on this week’s revenue to pay next week’s bills. There may not be a short-term solution for those who entered the pandemic with heavy debt unless they (and their teams) come up with some creative ideas. Instead, we’ll redouble our efforts to
share what others are doing.

As Today Media President (and DBT Group Publisher) Rob Martinelli explains, he didn’t have a contingency plan for a pandemic so he’s figuring out next steps. The same is true for most of you.

We cut some things out of this issue. There’s no For the Record because there aren’t many new business leads, non-coronavirus news briefs, promotions, or calendar items. But there is a Deep Dive Delaware roundtable on Census 2020, which is continuing amid all this.

The cover of this issue recognizes that we’ve all hit roadblocks – both personally and professionally. And we’re all figuring out how to get through them so we can continue our journeys.

I interviewed Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione a few weeks ago and he said something that is driving our approach: “Successful innovators need to roam, to find connections from other industries to yours that you can then bring your own unique spin to.” He spoke of subscribing to magazines from outside his industry, and we hope that some of our stories give you an “ah-ha” moment.

That’s why we created Voices From the Crisis, which introduces readers to people who are trying to find new ways to either survive or prosper when (or maybe before) all this is over. You can read all of them at delawarebusinesstimes.com/voices.

Leadership Delaware founder Terry Strine sent me a note early this week saying in part that he didn’t know how “we should be balancing these two challenges – social distancing to reduce the chance of contracting/passing on the virus and total collapse of our economy and permanent closing of many of our businesses caused by the required social distancing.”

The good news is that this being Delaware, we’ll figure it out together. Please drop me a note – [email protected] – if you have suggestions. 

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