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Cleveland, Brown, and Blues

If you've seen "Good Night and Good Luck," George Clooney's film on centered around CBS News journalist Edward Murrow's clashes with Senator Joseph McCarthy, you're familiar with one of the challenges that faced Joe and Shirley Wershba, CBS News employees who had to keep their marriage under wraps.

"They were - you weren't allowed to be in the company if you had a relative there, whether it was a cousin, an uncle, a sister, and certainly you couldn't be married," Shirley Wershba told Brooke Gladstone. "We knew that one of us would have to quit. As a matter of fact, the boss at the time said he thought that we ought to get married, and I said, 'Well, we would, except I don't want to quit working.' So he said, 'Well, don't tell anybody about it. I'll try to clear it with Personnel,' which he never did, so we had to keep it a secret."

Today brings new news of how marriage can complicate life for journalists. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is married to Congressman Sherrod Brown. Until recently, the marriage has been a minor issue for the paper, which both covers Brown and runs Schultz' column. But it has become am "increasingly painful" one now that Brown has announced he will be challenging Republican Sen. Mike DeWine in the 2006 election.

Writes Plain Dealer editor Doug Clifton (hat tip Romenesko):

Can I ask Connie not to appear on the campaign trail with her husband? And if she does, can I ask her proud husband not to introduce her as "my Pulitzer Prize-winning wife and columnist for The Plain Dealer?"

I have neither the ability to influence Sherrod Brown's conduct, nor the intent. But I do have influence on Connie and, happily, we're on the same page.

She has a keen understanding of the delicate position she - and our paper - are in. She understands that she can't both campaign for her husband and write a column. And I understand that she is a supportive spouse who will be at her candidate husband's side from time to time.

If there comes a time when Connie feels her obligations as the wife of a candidate require a more visible presence on the campaign, she will take a leave of absence. Meanwhile, look for Connie in her twice-weekly column, not campaigning for Sherrod Brown.

And understand that Connie's relationship with candidate Brown will have no influence - for or against - our coverage of his campaign.

That explanation isn't likely to satiate critics, of course, particularly in a media environment in which news consumers of all ideological stripes pore over every journalistic word in search of evidence that a particular outlet is biased.

Stay tuned. It should be an interesting year in Cleveland.