From News Star to Sheriff’s Star

From News Star to Sheriff’s Star

— For five years, I pestered Jane Watrel. At least three times a week — and sometimes more — I either emailed or telephoned her with news story suggestions. She never ignored me. If she didn’t like the idea, she was nice about it. Once, I called as she was preparing to go on the air. She was nice about that, too.

Jane is an experienced first-class reporter. She knows her way around, still a star in the news business. It was always my thought she should be anchoring the news. For the life of me, I can’t figure why she wasn’t put in the anchor’s seat. It wasn’t beyond me to anonymously send notes to various news directors and general managers suggesting a special broadcast spot for her.

I got out of the broadcast news business many years ago. I’d been assigned to interview five Navy nuclear submariners. I was a rookie. They probably knew it. We lugged a load of film equipment down a pier and then down the hatch. Today, of course, it’s a lot easier with modern technology. The "old salts" on the sub weren’t too thrilled at being interviewed for "teevee." At every one of my questions, they would answer yes, nope or just grin.

The piece was only going to be from 30 to 45 seconds anyway but it was about the coming launch of the fancy new sub. I admit I was excited about my first report and the copy I wrote was OK. The news show in those days was only 15 minutes. Wouldn’t you know it, gremlins got on the director’s board. The first 10 seconds there was no sound. My smiling face was silent for another five seconds and then for some reason, only a few seconds of the submariners looking at the camera with frowns.

It was then I figured I had a face and patience for the printed page.

Jane Watrel and her colleagues at WRC-TV, NBC4, Washington, rarely have had those kinds of problems I’m sure. They are the pros.

Jane has been a familiar figure to the Greater Washington news watchers, both at NBC4 and MSNBC cable news shows.

Recently, walking down the street I saw her doing a stand-up. As always, excellent. She suggested I stick around for a moment. She had something to tell me. I waited.

Once when Jane went to the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, she was introduced to Sherman, the K-9 bomb dog. He never forgot her and on another occasion when she was covering an event, Sherman remembered her and dragged his handler to see her. Smart dog.

On another day, when the earthquake struck Haiti, she knew of my interest in a special school in a Port au Prince area. Jane came to interview me. We talked about it and discovered she knew all about the trials and tribulations in Haiti. As a reporter in Florida, she had become acquainted but didn’t explain it to me until after our interview.

A few days later, she called me. Her husband, Matt Herzberg, a Navy commander/dentist, was aboard the USNS Comfort and was headed to Haiti. The good doctor was indeed good and diligently worked on young and old alike for weeks.

Another reason I’m a fan of Jane Watrel is her community commitment. She and Matt are Alexandria residents. Several years back, the scheduled master of ceremonies for the Chamber of Commerce Valor Awards luncheon cancelled the day before the event. In a panic, I called Jane. Without hesitation she came in, wowed the audience and the heroes of the Sheriff’s, Police and Fire-EMS departments.

Well, we’re going to miss Jane Watrel from Alexandria and the Greater Washington communities. Her message to me was, "I’m going to be a PIO." In June she moved from journalism into new work as media specialist/public information officer for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

I almost cried. What a loss for us television news watchers and the media community. As a retired PIO in Alexandria, the Sheriff in Orange County, Fla., gets a top notch pro. She covered the news at WFTV-Channel 9, Orlando from 1991 to 1999.

Jane earned a master’s degree in public relations/corporate communications from Georgetown. She is also a Penn State graduate. She jumped at the new work.

"I have a great deal of respect for the sheriff’s office and look forward to assisting them as they work with the media and the public," she said.