Last Tuesday, I got two different compliments regarding what I was wearing. One was about my newsboy cap, sweat-stained and rusted on top and where the bill snap is.
The other was for my bolo tie, a Morgan silver dollar one I probably found somewhere in my room at the Selvia household. I think it was my dad's from back in the 1980s.
Unlike my newsboy, which I've worn every day for the past year-and-a-half, the bolo tie is a recent addition. It has been one borne out of these uncertain times, as well as wanting to be just a little bit different (and to also be a little bit lazier too, I suppose).
I began wearing my bolo tie when COVID-19 finally crept its way into Putnam County back in March. My reasoning was that with all of the scrambling that was happening with our schools and businesses, it seemed unnecessarily formal then to wear a real tie. Wearing one wasn't going to add any more meaning or authority to my reporting.
Throughout the past three-and-a-half months, I've become impartial to now regularly wearing my bolo tie on days when I will have a meeting or an interview. However, I am conscious of being the professional, even if I'm not sometimes in "proper attire."
Here in the newsroom, we're pretty relaxed about our dress code. If I come in wearing a shirt and a (bolo) tie, I have some kind of engagement that day. Otherwise, I will be dressed as if I'm not going anywhere unless there is an emergency or a surprise story. I've been this way since I started here at the Banner, and I appreciate this flexibility.
More open assignments, especially during the weekends, are different. When covering events like North Putnam's drive-in party for its 2020 seniors or First Baptist Church's recent pre-K parade, I'm inclined to wear shorts or light pants and a comfortable shirt.
My bolo tie and my newsboy cap have perhaps become signifiers of a laid-back, fly-on-the-wall reporter. I know a crucial part of this job is not taking yourself too seriously on the outside. It is so much about trying to be approachable and attentive, and about promoting others' interest in what's going on. Being a journalist is about being human.
The story before me is what's important. What is important is that I am there, and that I will do my best to have the story be faithful as it is happening. This constancy is what #SmallTownPR is about; this is what the Banner Graphic as our newspaper is about.
Though anxiety and disagreements have come up with going back to school, all things COVID-19 news-related have more or less slowed down. And yet, I'm still wearing my bolo tie. In my head, I'll go back to wearing a necktie when Indiana finally enters Stage 5. To me, this will be one hopeful indication that we're coming out of this pandemic.
My bolo tie might fade out as a relic of being a small-town reporter during the COVID-19 spread. However, I would guarantee you that the newsboy will not be going away.
I'm fine having my half-bald head covered, anyway. I look 20 years older without it.