"Is it OK for me to put up a political sign?" my wife asked.
For 50 years, I worked in newsrooms at newspapers.
The policy went something like this: No partisan political activity (campaign donations, being on a campaign committee, etc.);
No bumper stickers on a vehicle used to go to assignments; no public displays of support for or opposition to political issues.
There were exceptions, and gray areas. In the order of importance of things, we are Americans, Pennsylvanians and DuBoisians before we are journalists. So most of us felt it OK to vote and to register as members of political parties. One notable exception: PBS' Jim Lehrer wanted to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest so much that he did not register or vote.
When my children were in elementary school, the school district decided to close their school. There were problems with that decision and with where they wanted the students to walk. I notified my boss that I ought not to have anything to do with reporting about meetings or writing editorial opinions concerning that issue.
There I sat at a school board meeting, as a parent, with other parents. Out of habit, I had brought a notebook. The meeting started - and the assigned reporter was nowhere to be seen. About 10 minutes before the meeting, he had been told that his own son had just broken a bone playing baseball, and he was needed at the hospital.
This was 1973 or so, way before cell phones. All I knew was that he wasn't there. So I took notes. After the meeting, I went to the newspaper office and learned about the emergency.
What to do?
I wrote the story and an editor's note, saying that the assigned reporter had a serious family emergency. I acknowledged my parental bias about the school closing, but said I had done my best to be fair. Then I called the school board president, a high school classmate, and invited him to come down and read the story; this was also before email. Since it was near midnight, he sleepily declined.
I think that was OK. It was better than no story at all. And readers knew where I was coming from.
Now, the yard signs. Remember, this has to do with "we," not just "me."
My wife is a registered Democrat and generally of the liberal persuasion (except for the death penalty and a few right-leaning quirks). I am ... wait for it ... a centrist. I know, I know; on some issues, I'm far to the right. But on a few other issues, I'm fairly left-leaning. So I am an on-average centrist, not an across-the-board centrist.
These days, I am retired from being a publisher, an editor and a reporter.
But I am still a journalist. I am an independent contractor (says the Internal Revenue Service). I write columns, editorial opinions and the like, and people actually pay a bit of money to publish those things.
Happily, my name is atop these columns, and it is also at the bottom of the editorial opinions, so that regular readers can know, "That opinion is just Denny being Denny again."
So what about political signs in our yard?
My wife and I co-own this place. She is entitled to express her opinions, political and otherwise.
My "solution" is that, if the snow ever melts and green grass becomes visible, we'll have two areas, side-by-side: "Her signs," and "His signs."
I suspect that her signs will include political signs, since a friend of hers is running for political office.
I still do not think that I would be comfortable putting up "I support Joe Sixpack" signs in the "my sign" area. But I ought to have something there, if for no other reason than to show that the "her signs" area really is not "our signs."
So I am looking around for signs. Here are some that are under consideration:
Saying that guns cause murders is like saying that steering wheels cause wrecks.
I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters (and, these days, computer keyboards). - Frank Lloyd Wright.
Life is hard. It's harder if you're stupid. - John Wayne.
Is there another word for synonym? - George Carlin.
Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them? - Ibid.
If you don't pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.
I am not yelling! I am Italian; this is how we talk!
Hmm. Do you think that people will be able to tell the difference between "my signs" and "her signs"?
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.