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Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV
Beefed-up media capture images of Baltimore burning for world to see

Television was filled with images of Baltimore burning Monday night. And those pictures that were seen nationally and globally have been seared into the minds of at least another full generation of viewers.

You will forgive my cynicism, but I don't think Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's rebranded "Charm TV" public-affairs channel is going to be able to put a dent in this nightmare.

I thought I was profoundly affected by the video images from Ferguson in the way they flashed me back to TV news of the 1968 riots. But it was nothing like what I saw Monday from Baltimore on cable and local TV starting only hours after Freddie Gray's funeral.

"I'm sure viewers around the world are watching and asking, 'Where are the police? Why is this happening? How is this happening in Baltimore?'" CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said at the 5 p.m. start of the "Situation Room" Monday. "This is hard to believe this is going on in a major American city right now."

"Holy hell, Wolf," said correspondent Miguel Marquez,...

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CNN MIA, local TV tries to step up as Freddie Gray protests turn ugly

After a week of cable and network news providing most of the best TV coverage of protests in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, the national outlets were mainly missing in action tonight when things got ugly.

For all the praise I heaped on CNN earlier in the week for its journalistically sound coverage of the protests here, the channel has my utter contempt for its commitment to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner tonight. It focused its cameras on this self-aggrandizing exercise in black-tie narcissism while just 55 miles down the road civil unrest led to smashed car and store windows, convenience store looting and vandalism, and more than three hours of face-to-face confrontations between police and protesters that led to gridlock on the streets of downtown Baltimore.

Fans were kept from leaving Camden Yards during the Orioles game because police did not yet have adequate control of the streets around the park. That sounds like news to me, how about you?

Or, is it only...

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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...

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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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