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Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV
Video technology changes the evidence, maybe society

It has been another one of those weeks on the media beat — a week of seeing jagged, disturbing video of an unarmed black man being violently subdued by police.

It has been happening a lot in recent months: Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.; Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C.; Eric Harris in Tulsa, Okla.; and now 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Even after decades of writing about vast media change, I'm in awe of the power of these citizen-made cellphone videos. They are disrupting patterns of media distribution and consumption that have been in place since World War II, and they are challenging what appears to be an unjust system of policing in some places based on the color of one's skin.

In Baltimore, there have been protests night after night since the first of two videos showing Gray's arrest surfaced last weekend and tore through the media.

I wonder if collectively these videos will reach a critical mass and have the same kind of societal effect today that network news footage...

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Baltimore mayor bringing confusion to TV conversation on Freddie Gray

The week is only half over, but already it's been a bad one for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in terms of her media messaging on the death of Freddie Gray.

A pattern of confusion and misinformation appears to be setting in with the mayor's appearances on cable and network TV.

At her worst, in TV terms, Rawlings-Blake comes off as defensive and sounding like someone who is running for office rather than a leader focused on getting a community through a very tough time.

The trouble started early Monday with an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in which Rawlings-Blake was asked about her position on police body cameras by Mark Halperin, co-author of the election books "Game Change" and "Double Down" and now co-managing-editor of Bloomberg Politics.

"I understand you've not always been a supporter of having body cameras on your police," Halperin said. "Why not, and should that happen now in the wake of this?"

"Well, I think you have absolutely incorrect information," she replied with visible...

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CNN going all out, delivering strong Freddie Gray coverage

When it comes to television, CNN has been in a league by itself in covering the Freddie Gray story.

From boots on the ground in Baltimore covering protests and press conferences Monday, to a non-stop lineup straight through prime time Tuesday night of interview shows trying to provide context, CNN is showing the competition what committed, competent, TV news coverage looks like.

Top-rated Fox News? Forget about it on this story. As of dinnertime Tuesday, I had yet to even see the citizen videos of Gray's arrest there. And the videos - with their sounds of Gray's anguished screams and images of his legs looking as if they could not function -- are the driving force behind this story.

Miguel Marquez, Suzanne Malveaux and the video and sound crews in Baltimore have given viewers a strong feel for events on the streets of Baltimore - particularly Tuesday at dusk as crowds gathered to protest and officials wondered what would happen when night fell. Marquez especially seemed to be in the middle...

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'Inside Amy Schumer' even better in Season 3

Amy Schumer, who just might be the hottest comic in pop culture right now, returns for Season 3 tonight on Comedy Central with one of her strongest half hours yet.

Remember how good she and Baltimore's Josh Charles were last year as a pair of workers in fast food drive-thru restaurant.

They're back together in tonight's season opener in a parody of "Friday Night Lights." He's the driven young high school football coach, and she's his sexy, heavily-drinking wife with the worst Texas accent I ever heard. (I think she's trying to do "Gone With The Wind.")

Anyway, the sketch is not only funny and instantly engaging because of the talents of Schumer and Charles, it's really, really smart. The social commentary is sharp-edged and keenly-focused to a degree I can't remember seeing on her series.

The comic premise finds the new coach trying to build character by telling the boys on his team that rape is no longer allowed. His dictum not only angers the players, who think it's part of their entitlement...

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Amy Schumer renewed for fourth season on Comedy Central

With Season 3 starting tonight, Comedy Central today announced that "Inside Amy Schumer" has been renewed for a fourth season.

Schumer was already an important comedic voice by the start of Season 1, but the Towson University graduate has shot to the top of pop culture consciousness in recent months.

From the cover of Entertainment Weekly, to hosting the "MTV Movie Awards" and winning a Peabody Award, it seems as people are lining up to celebrate her work.

We have been writing about her a long time. Check out the galleries and related items. There is some good stuff there.

Season 3 "Inside Amy Schumer" premieres at 10:30 tonight with the first of 10 episodes this season.



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Cable TV shapes national perception of Freddie Gray's death

From Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake getting grilled on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to CNN giving wall-to-wall coverage of an afternoon news conference, the story of Freddie Gray's death became a national TV story Monday.

And while city officials might have thought that conducting a news conference and releasing surveillance video would let them control the narrative, it was cable TV — through the use of video and still photography — that was shaping how the story and Baltimore's police-community relations would be seen nationally.

The 25-year-old Gray died Sunday after his arrest the weekend before. Driven by citizen-made cellphone video of the arrest that showed Gray seemingly unable to walk and onlookers angrily shouting at police as they dragged him into a van, the story had already sparked protests in Baltimore.

The chasm between what city officials were saying about their handling of Gray and what viewers were seeing was evident during CNN's coverage of the Baltimore news conference.


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