I get asked a certain question about my columns from time to time, and, no, it's not "What are you on when you write those ramblings?"
People want to know when I'm going to write a column about the Clayton County School Board, since I have been covering it for two years, and two months.
I've even been ripped several times on Internet message boards about my columns, because they do not talk about the school board.
Well, the answer to everyone's question is ... never. I'm never going to write a column about the school board, and I won't write any columns about the Clayton County Sheriff and his predecessor, now that I'm temporarily covering them.
It's not that I don't have any opinions about these issues. I certainly have observations about the school system's governing body. Despite appearances, I'm not a mindless zombie.
The thing is, I'd be violating a pretty important rule that my employer has in place. It is newspaper policy that reporters do not write columns -- or other opinion pieces -- about the people, and beats or issues-areas they cover.
It is a logical rule to have.
How could I be trusted as an impartial reporter of, say, the school board's actions, when, every Friday, I write a column that says "Yeah, School Board!" or "Boo, School Board!"
It's the public's job to criticize, or support, public officials. I'm just supposed to make sure you know what your public officials are doing -- good or bad.
I have a personal code of ethics when it comes to being a reporter. I strive to keep opinion out of my articles. It is not my job to tell you how you should feel about a local official. It is my job to present you with the facts, as I know them, and then, let you develop your own opinion on an issue.
I should not be telling you when to get upset, when to be happy, when to jump, or when to stand still. "I'm not your momma," as deceased, former Mississippi First Lady Pat Fordice used to say.
On many of the largest newspapers, there are separate editorial, or opinion, staffs. Those writers only write opinion pieces. They do not cover news, only reflect on it and what it means -- in their opinion.
Many smaller newspapers don't have that luxury, so it makes sense to focus reporters on providing readers the best, straight-foward coverage possible. Aside from any editorial opinions that may come from the newspaper itself, in its corporate voice, readers are left to make up their own minds.
Even so, I have plenty of fun making fun of my own columns. They are creatures unto themselves, often because I draw on the weird or very odd happenings that show up on TV, or the Internet, or in newspapers or magazines, things that are unusual, thought-provoking and generally, entertaining.
But, if I stuck to what I know, outside of what I cover as a reporter, all you'd read about is college football, or the stuff I minored in when I was in college. That means endless columns about political theory, and military history.
I mean, who wants to read repeated columns in which I compare Clayton and Henry counties to the society described in Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave."
Then again, I could not write that column, anyway. Not without writing about the people whose actions I report, so it is a moot point.
Still, my columns are a reflection of me in all my quirkiness, and trust me, there is a lot of quirkiness in me. It's who I am.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.