The last time Baltimore gave its police chief the boot, it fired the messenger, too. Matt Jablow, a former TV reporter who'd been the Police Department's spokesman for four years, lost his job in July, when Sheila Dixon ousted Commissioner Leonard Hamm.
Jablow has just landed another job, as a producer for Bethesda-based America's Most Wanted.
"I think it would be hard to find a job that combines my interests and experience better than this one," Jablow said. "Producing good stories and helping find bad guys is a great way to make a living."
Jablow, 44, said he got his foot in the door because of America's Most Wanted correspondent Jon Leiberman, who has known Jablow since they worked for rival TV stations in Baltimore - and who knows what it's like to get the political ax.
Hunt Valley's Sinclair Broadcast Group fired Leiberman, who was its Washington bureau chief, after he publicly criticized its plan to air an anti-John Kerry documentary shortly before the 2004 presidential election.
"I got here because of Jon Leiberman," Jablow said. "When he heard I left the Police Department, he called me right away."
So America's Most Wanted viewers should expect to see lots of Baltimore cases, right? Wrong. Charm City has more than its share of crime, but generally not the kind that makes for good TV. Fugitive drug lords, serial killers, missing children - that's entertainment. Drug dealers popping other drug dealers, not so much.
Said Jablow: "They're looking for really compelling narratives."
And you think your commute is a drag?
TV news, politics and unemployment have been on Andy Barth's resume, too. The veteran WMAR-TV reporter, who left the station to run for the 3rd District congressional seat, was out of a job after he lost last September's primary.
A year later, Barth has three jobs, one with a whopping commute.
He's freelancing as a weekend reporter for WTTG-TV, Washington's Fox affiliate. He's producing pieces, also as a freelancer, for Maryland Public Television's Outdoors Maryland. And he's teaching journalism at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Barth said the teaching job, which is just for this semester, came about because he'd worked with the journalism school's director a couple of years ago on a symposium about New York Times fabricator Jayson Blair. Barth said it was "one of those 'I-don't-know-if-you'd-be-interested'" kinds of things. Barth was interested, even though it's a long haul from his Fulton home to the Hattiesburg, Miss., campus.
Every Monday night, Barth catches a direct, two-hour-and-15-minute flight from BWI to Jackson, then drives 90 minutes to Hattiesburg. He teaches Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, then heads home for the weekend.
"I've flown home Thursday and gone to work [at WTTG] Friday, Saturday, Sunday," he said.
Barth, who'd never taught before, said he's enjoying it.
"It's like most things - harder than it looks," he said. "A good class is a lot of fun. It's sort of like an hourlong live shot."
Saving oil there, slowing traffic here
The sixth anniversary of Sept. 11 passed yesterday with a curious mix of symbols: solar panels and a gas-guzzling traffic jam.
In College Park, the University of Maryland unveiled a house that runs entirely on solar power, with enough juice left over to run an electric car. While the house was created for another purpose - it will appear next month on The Mall in Washington, as one of 18 entries in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon - the university promoted it as "forward-looking 9/11 event."
"UM Students to Demonstrate Energy-Independent Home on 9/11," the news release said. The implied connection: Nifty technology like this will extricate us from oil- and terrorist-rich parts of the globe.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, the city's top cop was willing to burn through some extra fossil fuels in the name of honoring police and firefighters who died in the terrorist attack. Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said it wasn't a bad thing that a 5K memorial race slowed and even stopped some rush-hour traffic downtown.
"It's probably even better that we had this on a weekday because it focuses attention," Bealefeld told The Sun's Gus Sentementes. "It's important to keep people focused on the events of the day - not rush hour, but on those men and women who risk their lives."
Connect the dotsThe mayor's race wasn't the only one Sheila Dixon ran yesterday. She also participated in the Sept. 11 anniversary 5K. Her time in the 3.1-mile race was 37:50, just over 12 minutes per mile. Spokesman Anthony McCarthy said she ran the first mile alone, then stuck with a pack of police cadets. That might have slowed Dixon down, but perhaps won her some votes from a group that had backed rival Keiffer Mitchell. ... The 7 a.m. race wasn't listed on the mayor's official schedule. Dixon told The Sun's John Fritze that she decided to skip a hair appointment so she could participate. Wonder if her salon will charge her a no-show fee.