Violence or Peace in Baltimore? Depends on Who You Watch

By Kevin Eck 

After the first trial of the Freddie Gray case resulted in a mistrial, Baltimore TV viewers may have been wondering whether they were going to see peaceful protests or rioting in that city. The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik said it all depended on whether they were watching local TV or a network.

Zurawik said network coverage showed an angry city on the edge of violence, while local TV stations described a very different scene. On CBS-owned WJZ, anchors Denise Koch and Mary Bubala told viewers protestors walking through the streets were “peaceful.”

CNN anchor Jake Tapper, in a toss to reporter Jean Casarez on the streets of the city, said, “Police obviously are bracing for, preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.”

“I would say the pulse of the community is anxious,” Casarez said. “When I look into the eyes of this community, Baltimore City, right here, I see sadness. They wanted a verdict. … I also see some anger. And I also see some fear.”

That’s a lot to see on the corner outside the courthouse. I’ve stood where Casarez was many times, and I have never once been able to “look into the eyes of this community” and see all that — as great a vantage point as it might be.

The local channels also seemed to use more overhead helicopter shots as opposed to ground-level shots favored by cable channels. From above, protest groups looked smaller, more contained and greatly outnumbered by police. The handheld street-level images, meanwhile, generated a sense of confusion, confrontation and even chaos.