The acclaimed HBO drama that has drawn on Baltimore drug dealers, politicians and schools for its ripped-from-the-headlines feel will tap another vein for verisimilitude: local office clutter. Specifically, Baltimore Sun office clutter. Look for it next season on The Wire.
I got this scoop simply by sitting at work one day, minding my own business, and looking up just in time to see a woman shooting photos of my very messy desk. She and a guy from the show worked the whole newsroom, taking note of old papers piled on the floor and jackets deposited on empty chairs instead of coat racks.
They seemed particularly taken by the disheveled workspace of medical and science editor Mike Himowitz, calling his piles of books, boxes and spare computer parts "a classic." They also admired the fluorescent orange earplugs that City Hall reporter John Fritze uses to block out the aural chaos.
We've known the show's fifth season would focus on "the media" since last fall, when Wire creator (and former Sun reporter) David Simon disclosed that much in an interview with The Sun's David Zurawik. But we didn't know the story line would revolve around the paper in particular until recently, when Wire shutterbugs descended on Sun clutterbugs.
Then last week, the show started filming outside 501 N. Calvert St. Wire reps have been sitting in on meetings where editors discuss stories for the next day's paper.
The Wire originally sought to shoot inside the newsroom, but its crews built a set in the time it took lawyers for the program and the paper to work out a deal, said Tim Thomas, The Sun's vice president for marketing.
"They're trying to make it as realistic as possible," Thomas said.
The show's reps even asked for the name of The Sun's office furniture vendor so they could buy the very same taupe cubicles for the set, Thomas said. They also got a real hawker's vest and a newspaper box from the paper.
Not that The Sun expects a glowing portrayal in return.
"As much as we would like that to happen, the producers of The Wire wouldn't do that," Thomas said. "People know what kind of show The Wire is. ... We have the institutional strength not to worry about works of fiction as long as it's not some egregious misrepresentation."
The show can't create a fictitious front page and put The Sun's logo on top, he said. Other than some rules like that, the agreement comes with very few strings.
"This is clearly only a facilities rental agreement," he said. "We maintain a very healthy distance between The Baltimore Sun and The Wire because it is a work of fiction and we don't want to give even the hint that we had prior knowledge. ... We don't want the appearance of approval or meddling."
They'll dance with the one who danced with them
United Auto Workers Local 239 endorsed Ken Harris for City Council president last month, seven months ahead of the Democratic primary. The early-bird nod came despite some behind-the-scenes lobbying on behalf of incumbent President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
The union supports Harris because he tried to save the now-shuttered Broening Highway GM plant, said Darren Petty, the UAW's state political director.
"Four years ago, we had some friends in our corner, one being Martin O'Malley, and [Councilman] Jim Kraft and Ken Harris. Ken wasn't even in our district. 'Anything I can do for you guys and anything that we need, maybe tax incentives. ... ' And he was calling every couple of months. He tried very hard."
Petty said that's why he wasn't receptive when political and fundraising consultant Colleen Martin-Lauer, who'd gotten wind of the pending endorsement, approached him about Rawlings-Blake.
"Colleen asked us to consider Stephanie Rawlings or at least have a talk with her," Petty said. "Stephanie was in office, too, at the time, and we didn't get no calls from Stephanie."
Martin-Lauer confirmed that she talked to Petty but said that it was no big deal.
"I talk to Darren all the time about politics. That's what I do," she said. "I talked to him about this race."
Connect the dots
Bob and Kendel Ehrlich will kick off their morning radio show on WBAL this Saturday. One guest they're trying to book soon, if not for the first show: Rudy Giuliani. The former NYC mayor and presidential candidate is obviously busy, but he's trying to squeeze in an appearance, said Alison Jessie, promotions manager for the station. "Nothing's been finalized yet," she said. The former Gov endorsed Giuliani for president last week. Does that rule out appearances by other GOP contenders, say John McCain or Mitt Romney? Jessie did not answer directly: "We definitely plan to have some great names in politics on the show." ... Bob Ehrlich has revealed the "working title" for his book to Brendan Miniter of OpinionJournal.com, and it has nothing to do with missing Government House chefs or babysitters. It's Not Your Father's Republican Party. The former Gov will advise his party: "Elect a strong leader. Don't shy away from taking on controversial issues, even those involving race. Return to economic and fiscally conservative principles. And 'never apologize when you're right,'" Minter reported yesterday.