Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

First hour of 'The Killing of Freddie Gray' podcast short on untold stories

First episode of new Freddie Gray podcast promises untold stories; whether it will deliver remains to be seen.

Here’s the big tease in the first episode of “The Killing of Freddie Gray.” It came at the end of the “Undisclosed” podcast that dropped Monday night.

“Hundreds of stories will be written about Freddie Gray’s death, the ensuing civil unrest, the prosecution and trials of the officers,” listeners were told by a narrator, who took the story up to the day in 2015 when Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against the six officers involved in the arrest of Gray.

“But in all the frenzy, no one will catch one incredibly important thing: The charges against the officers are based on the narrative of the six stops provided by the officers themselves,” the narrator continued.

“But there are other witnesses and other evidence that tell a different story of what happened to Freddie — witnesses and evidence you never heard of because neither the police nor the prosecution nor the media ever brought it to light. Next time on 'Undisclosed.'”

If the podcast delivers credible witnesses and relevant evidence that neither the police, prosecutors nor the media brought to light, the producers will have provided listeners with something of social importance that is worth their time. But if the producers don’t deliver that, they are going to have a serious credibility problem after ads like the one they ran in The Baltimore Sun saying, “The Killing of Freddie Gray: There’s the story you’ve been told, and there’s what really happened.”

After just one episode, it's too early to render any kind of conclusive judgment. But based on what I heard, I have my doubts about the podcast living up to the promises of the ads.

The first hour failed to deliver any untold stories or important new evidence. The narrators sounded like I was supposed to get excited about their audio analysis of a whispered exchange during a news conference involving then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; her then-police commissioner, Anthony Batts; and his deputy commissioner, Jerry Rodriguez.

But the heightened audio analysis failed to provide clarity on what was actually said, and what listeners were left with was an interpretation of it from narrators Justine Barron and Amelia McDonell-Parry.

They ultimately offered the audience nothing more definitive than their feelings about the exchange, using subjective words like “weird” and terms like “deeply uncomfortable” to describe what they think was going on. Not exactly stop-the-presses stuff.

Listeners were told that Barron and McDonell-Parry co-wrote and co-produced the hour. Barron was described as a “screenwriter and columnist for the Jewish Journal”; McDonell-Parry was described as “a longtime blog editor and now a writer for Rolling Stone and CrimeFeed.”

Rabia Chaudry, the Maryland attorney who helped launch "Undisclosed" with “The State v. Adnan Syed,” described the pair as “investigative journalists” in Monday’s podcast. In closing credits, Chaudry was also listed as a writer on the episode, along with Marcia Chatelain, an associate professor at Georgetown University.

New episodes of “The Killing of Freddie Gray” will drop every Monday night for the next three months, listeners were told Monday. Baltimore author D. Watkins will also host a podcast that will drop every Thursday during the run; it will involve a discussion about each Monday’s episode.

Find out more and listen to the episode here. 

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