Sun announces new columnist

19-year veteran of paper starts next month

June 06, 2006|By NICK MADIGAN | NICK MADIGAN,SUN REPORTER

Jean Marbella, a 19-year veteran of The Sun, will become the paper's new metro columnist, beginning next month.

Marbella, 49, joined The Sun in 1987 and worked as a feature writer and national correspondent before becoming editor of the Today section two years ago.

"I've almost always been a reporter, so this is a new beast for me," Marbella said yesterday, as colleagues stopped by her office to offer congratulations. "At the core of a column, there should be the same reporting, the observations and the background. I don't plan on writing just off the top of my head. If you're a good reporter, you can report on anything, and this is just another way of reporting."

But Marbella acknowledged that her new column, which will run twice a week, will raise her profile considerably.

"I never got into journalism to be a personality," she said. "I'm sort of shy. This is probably the biggest challenge I've faced in journalism."

Born in Havre de Grace, Marbella grew up in Chicago, where she remembers being inspired reading columns by Mike Royko, Bob Greene and Roger Simon. Later, after graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she was a reporter at The Wichita Eagle in Kansas and The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Timothy A. Franklin, editor of The Sun, said he had approached Marbella several weeks ago and asked her to write three sample columns. What he saw convinced him that his ideal candidate was in-house, despite many applicants from elsewhere.

"She's an extremely gifted writer," he said. "She has a unique eye for details that others miss. She has a wide range of interests, she's a counterintuitive thinker and she has a lot of opinions. She also brings a rich knowledge of Baltimore and Maryland to the job. That's a huge plus."

The metro columnist position became open in January when longtime writer Michael Olesker resigned. He was initially replaced by Wendi C. Thomas, who left The Sun in April before her first column was to have run. Thomas returned to Memphis, Tenn., because, she said, she was homesick.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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