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Analyzing Media Coverage Of Recent Events in Baltimore

Matt Purdy

Media coverage nearly always changes what it is covering.  The questions asked, the frame drawn around an event or an issue not only transmit a view of that subject, but also influence how the news unfolds, what people in the news decide to do next, and how consumers of news interpret it.  

Sometimes the effect is subtle.  But a huge concentration of reporters can generate a huge effect.  At some points in Baltimore in the last ten days, journalists have outnumbered activists and protesters.  As curfew approached last night, and Democrat Elijah Cummings was using a bullhorn to urge  residents to go home, a Fox News  reporter trailed him with questions until – until the 7th-district congressmen turned to  him and his camera crew, “People are leaving,” Cummings said.  “You’re taking pictures of each other.”

For some insight into how all the attention -- from traditional media to social media -- is affecting understanding of Freddie Gray’s death and its aftermath -- we’re turning to an observer of media, and a practitioner.  With me in the studio is Lester Spence, associate professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins.  His most recent book is “ Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics." Also with us is David Rosenthal, the Baltimore Sun’s senior editor for investigations.  He edited the series last fall about police brutality in Baltimore, written by Mark Puente, called “Undue Force.” 

Sheilah Kast is the host of On The Record, Monday-Friday, 9:30-10:00 am.