Angela Tuell 0:05
Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in- depth interviews with those who report on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at communications redefined, this is Media in Minutes. I am excited to welcome our guest today Emmy winning broadcast journalist Jason Newton. Jason is the co-anchor of WBAL TV 11 News Today in Baltimore. He's also host of the public affairs show 11 TV Hill. Jason's news travels have taken him around the country covering stories of national interest. Prior to WBAL Jason was an anchor and reporter at WISN TV in Milwaukee, and WBOC TV in Salisbury, Maryland. Hi, Jason, welcome. It's so great to hear your voice.
Jason Newton 1:00
Hey, it's good to hear from you again.
Angela Tuell 1:02
Yeah, so for our listeners, I have to say Jason, and I went to the University of Maryland together for Merrill College of Journalism. And we began our TV careers in the same market on the eastern shore of Maryland, different TV stations, competitors, there a little bit, right? Yeah. But I have to say, I'm super impressed and proud to follow your career.
Jason Newton 1:23
Oh, thank you. It's been an absolute wild ride from way back in the days at University of Maryland, and then through the eastern shore. I mean, there's some days where I'm like, they're gonna let me be on television? Right. So now 20 years later, it's, it's been a really fulfilling career so far.
Angela Tuell 1:39
I think that's why you've gotten so far, because you're so humble.
Jason Newton 1:42
Angela Tuell 1:45
Tell us a little bit more about your career path and how you landed back in Maryland?
Jason Newton 1:49
Yeah, well, it was, it was really odd. Now, I'll give you the short version of it. I had always dreamed to be a pediatrician. I just knew that's what I was going to do. And then yeah, and so I took, I was doing all the classes until I took organic chemistry, and I did it once. And then I did it twice. And the third time, when I knew I just wasn't gonna pass it. I was like, I gotta find something else. And there was some really great people in the College of Journalism, who after searching and searching and talking to family and friends, that really reassured me that I had some skills in there somewhere to do something. It's named like Dr. Lee Thornton and Sue Kopan, and they really, they had faith in me and really trusted me and knew that, you know, with putting myself you know, not going to every basketball game and apply myself and that kind of stuff. And that there was something in there. And so, with them, I could not have done it. Or without them, I could not have done it. And just pushed ahead. And I had a job right out of school in Saulsbury. And off I went.
Angela Tuell 2:46
Yeah. And it's the rest is history, right?
Jason Newton 2:49
Yeah, it literally is. You know, and and to be honest with you, I mean, even in Salisbury even though it seems like easy street, you got a job, even there. You know, I had some struggles with confidence. And in being certain that this was for me. I'm sure that there were days when I was like, I just can't do this. And that stayed there for probably about six or seven years. And I feel like it really, it built a layer of crust for me to understand what this job entailed and what my role would would be within it.
Angela Tuell 3:18
Yeah, that's a little long for you know, your first job sometimes. So just your moving up different roles. And, you know, how did you end up staying there that long?
Jason Newton 3:27
Yeah, that was it. Like I felt I really did feel myself climbing this ladder. And, and for the time being, I just got really comfortable. And I said, Okay, well didn't, you know, I was working out here. And it was a little bit of fear of leaving the general area, you know, I'm from Baltimore to be in Salisbury are still driving distance. And I was, you know, I just didn't know how to handle gay like, I hadn't been there. You know, I went to school at University of Maryland. Now I'm working still in Maryland. So there was an I there was just, you know, some there's a little bit of fear. And and I always tell kids that, you know, you got to venture out. And so I learned that television was a business while I was there. And I knew that my time had come to move on so and so I did, and it was probably the best thing for me.
Angela Tuell 4:06
And then you went to Milwaukee, right?
Jason Newton 4:08
Yeah, yeah, there was a shortstop at UNBS to help teach kids how to use cameras and report. And then I hired an agent and then Milwaukee came and I thought I was gonna land in Milwaukee and be in the middle of a cow pasture. You know, you know, figure out farming and all this other stuff. And I quickly found out that Milwaukee is just a city like any city with the same ups and downs and it would really it felt like Baltimore be honest with you. And just another just another step. You know, if Salisbury was grad school, then then Milwaukee would be my PhD and just in still learning and just trying to figure out my voice as a reporter. And things I enjoy.
Angela Tuell 4:42
And then you get WBAL. Were you amazed?
Jason Newton 4:46
Yeah, I just you know, you just never think that you're ever going to come home I mean, you always hear stories about you know, okay, you have to move to Alaska to get your first job, then Sacramento. You know, in Amarillo, Texas. And so for my, my next stop to be home in a station that I enjoyed as a resident and now to be shoulder to shoulder with names that I've heard forever, you know, Stan Stovall and, you know, Mindy Basara and Deb Weiner - just people that I admired as a viewer. And now to be colleagues with them. I'm telling you the first couple days, I've just completely, you know, fanboy all day long. Oh, my gosh, there's Tom Tasselmyer. Tony Pann is in the same room, Keith Miller. So it just I'm still amazed. You know, there's so there's still some days, I'm just like, Please let my keycard work. Just to tell me this is not a dream.
Angela Tuell 5:32
And people are thinking that about you now. Your name.
Jason Newton 5:35
Oh, I got a little. Maybe me. You know, I know that. I know that my mother's watching every morning. That's all.
Angela Tuell 5:44
I know. You said that. early in your career covering Hurricane Katrina from Louisiana was extremely impactful. How so?
Jason Newton 5:51
Well, you know that that came up. When that was assigned to me, it was assigned to me the day before a fire division from Salisbury was going to go so I only had about 24 hours notice. I'd load up with Walmart and load up all kinds, all kinds of stuff. And I got there and with the assumption that me and a photographer, we're gonna meet up and it ended up being just me. And they gave me a camera and a fistful of money to for incidentals, and hotels and that. And I just got on a fire truck and drove to a road to Louisiana.
Angela Tuell 6:21
Jason Newton 6:22
Yes. Not really a comfortable ride, if you can, no, no, it's so it was impactful in the sense that I was being trusted with so much. I had no way to get video back. So I had to once we got there, you know, I had to drive to Baton Rouge, this was on my own and one of the fire vehicles to try to find a station willing enough to take me in to feed the video back so. So that was one element of trust and finding my voice and standing up and asking for help and that kind of stuff. But also it was learning how one event can affect different people, and not just telling the surface story. But being able to tell the story a little deeper and how events can affect people in different positions in different ways. And you know, going into families homes who have lost everything yet they're offering me lunch or dinner, or just understanding what it feels like to lose it all or to walk into a house and not knowing what you're going to see when you get in there. And it was just allowing your senses to sort of lead you. But also it forced me to be sensitive to people I may never, you know, cross paths with if it wasn't for tragedy, and to be able to tell their story accurately. So I felt like I grew a lot on one trip alone.
Angela Tuell 7:29
Yeah. So aside from WBAL's morning show, you also co host, you're also the co host of the Hill, right, WBAL's public affairs program. Yeah. For those who aren't familiar, yes, tell us a little bit more about it.
Jason Newton 7:42
Sure. Yeah, it's 11 TV Hill. And in fact, we're going to tape today's show this weekend show in an hour here. And it is a way to take the overarching headline of the week and turn it into a show that tech as we as you know the term we always say let it breathe. But you get to know the characters a little bit more. And it also allows me the opportunity to be myself a little bit. So, like this week is as we come up on the holidays, it is a being what we're thankful for this year, some of the people in the community that we're thankful that we have them in Baltimore, so Bradley Bozeman, and his wife, Nikki, who he's a football player for the Ravens, they've done a lot with anti bullying and soup kitchens like feeding people. And so I'll talk to him about that this guy has a podcast, No Pix After Dark, and he makes sure he looks for positivity in the city. And I spoke to one of the teachers of the year and a nurse of the year getting through COVID. So you know, news stories are really quick, during a newscast, you usually get about two minutes tops to tell the story. So I get 30 minutes to really just give it a little more time and get your chance to meet people who may live five minutes away from you, but you don't know their story. And I just enjoy that. Like I just I just feel like their conversations and not reading a teleprompter. And I think I enjoy that more than anything.
Angela Tuell 8:54
Do you help produce that too? Are you?
Jason Newton 8:56
Oh, yeah, yeah, I help write and produce it. There are two producers who have other responsibilities throughout the week. But they also do some of the show as well. So I mean, I'm, you know, I'm not sitting back and watching the show happen, I'm helping to make calls and set things up. And on Mondays we have a, an idea meeting where we come up with what the show will be. And, you know, some days, it's very easy, because the headline is huge. But then other weeks when you know, you have to think of what people want. And I just feel like news cycles can just be lack of a better term bloody sometimes or just negative. And so my hope is to find topics, even if it's a hard topic, to find things that are positive about it, or things that we can do to change the negative to be positive or just hearing from someone who's working along this neg - you know what something may be negative and share their way of thinking rather than just giving you scary headlines.
Angela Tuell 9:47
That's great. And do you, how do you tend to find those stories? I know you said going along the headlines but do you have you know PR professionals pitching you ideas for the show as well? Or?
Jason Newton 9:56
Yeah, you know, it's a little bit everything I mean, so yes, there are some stories that I've gotten from folks in PR that have been very helpful. The the nurse of the year that we're looking for actually came from a press release that we got from LifeBridge Health. The others are pretty organic, you know, you just see it in your community, at your church or your kids school, and then others are just in your face. So like when we do COVID, or the holidays and that kind of thing. So it's from a variety of sources.
Angela Tuell 10:21
So in 2017, you won an Emmy Award for your coverage of Maryland's opioid crisis. What was the story behind that?
Jason Newton 10:29
I think we're at a time when that was really the buzzword and or if people are paying a lot of attention to opioids, and in fact, Hearst television was taken upon themselves to, to make that one of our goals throughout that year was to focus on how this epidemic is happening, the people that it's affecting, and then what locals markets are doing to make people more aware of it. Hearst TV has about we about I can think 30 some stations across the US. So all of the stations, were taking this upon themselves to, to talk about it within their community. So that was ours. And luckily, you know, I had the 30 minute forum, so why not? So you know, we had the police commissioner and the mayor and health department and people in the streets and that kind of thing to talk about how it's affecting their communities. And it was eye opening, like you just don't know, what people are going through, or you may miss label why someone may be misusing a drug. And I think it's important for people to understand that there's so many branches that come off of the whole opioid crisis that I think we all should be aware of.
Angela Tuell 11:28
Yeah, there's a lot there. Yeah. So not to age us. You've been in the business for more than 20 years now. What have been some of your proudest moments, you know, you mentioned a couple there when you win the Emmy, and the story behind that and things, but what are some of the others?
Jason Newton 11:44
um, you know, I guess I'm just proud of the, I don't want to, like, you know, pat myself on the back, but I'm proud of the rise that I've had, you know, to, to have been in college and uncertain about so many things, to be trusted with a job straight out of college that I had no idea what I was doing, then to get, you know, to get offers to go elsewhere, and then to eventually come home, I'm, I'm proud that I stuck to it. I know as a kid that I spent a lot of times as a kid sort of looking for the easier route, or things got a little bit tough, like I need to change direction and to stick with this. Even through days when you're knocking on doors in the cold or you're doing a story that made you cry at the end of the day or whatever. Or do you know deal with the change in Salisbury no leaving Salisbury was was was tough, because it wasn't totally my decision to part ways. And so to stick with things, I think as an adult, meant a lot to me. I'm proud of being able to do things in Baltimore where my family is able to see it and understand what my work is. And I'm proud to be in public and to see people who I either look up to or have a lot of respect for and for, for them to say hi to me first before I say hi to you guys. Right, the former mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, is a wonderful guy who went to my high school. When I think the mayor that's the guy I think of. He was a mayor when, you know, as I was growing up, and I ran into him at a Ravens game, and I was rushing over to say hi to him. He reached out to shake my hand before I do. And I'm you know, it just it makes me aware that when I'm doing wonderful or horrible, at least, I've captured the ear of folks, and I just hope I'm doing right by them.
Angela Tuell 13:26
Yes. And I know you mentioned you just mentioned you know, it's not always roses, what have been some struggles?
Jason Newton 13:31
Um, you know, you have to have a thick skin, I think in the public and doing stories. You have to understand that not everyone's going to walk away, feeling happy that of the work that you've done. And so you have to understand the reasons that you do it and be able to back why you do things. You're doing it to seek the truth and not do harm and all those good tenants that we've learned in college. And if you feel like you've done that, and you feel like you've put in all the effort appropriately, then you should not fear that you've done wrong. I know that I've done a good job when I have people email upset on both sides. Horrible because you're a liberal, because you're conservative. Oh, you know, whatever. It's horrible. Did you like to steal it? Oh, you like I think if you get something from both sides, you know you've done a good you are you even had your fair? Yeah. And you know, and then starting out, you know, there's just just putting yourself out there can be tough as a young kid out of college, you know, like I was talking about MLS that was always hard for me man on the street interviews because you're just scared to walk up to people and ask questions, and then it just becomes part of the job. And so it just little milestones. I think that along the way you get comfortable with and you get good at them. And it's just just like breathing, you don't think of it?
Angela Tuell 14:43
Yeah, like riding a bike, right?
Jason Newton 14:44
Angela Tuell 14:46
I love your fun and quirky videos you make on the morning show on social media. They're so great and that music.
Jason Newton 14:52
I'm fearful that I'm going to be known more for those that I am for the actual news content. That's it but I'll take whatever I can get.
Angela Tuell 15:00
So I know when we started in TV news, you know, not to age us again, but social media wasn't a thing. So can you imagine living and working without it now?
Jason Newton 15:08
No. Heck no, no. I mean, I just, you know, like yesterday, we're following this tragic cases for a police officer and his kids, here in Maryland. And I think that, even though you know, you don't go and just report everything you see on social media, but it gives you sort of a ground level to understand what may be going on. I think that it you know, sometimes the one thing that I'm fearful of in this job is cell phones only because that they can do everything that I'm doing. They can be live on TV, they can be in a live to 1000s of people, they can report things before you do. And, and so it is an important tool for everybody. And so you have to figure out how to harness that a little bit. And so I think that it's, it's important now that police departments use it and fire departments in the federal government use, the president uses it. I think that it is a new voice out there. So yes, you can do some quirky silly videos, but it also I think it, it is a great tool for communication. And I don't know, you know, what, what to say once Jack is out of the box, I don't know if you put it back in? Oh, yeah. No, I think we all find a way whether it's PR or TV news, ways to use it.
Angela Tuell 16:14
So I use some of my journalist skills and researching and found an article on WBAL from about seven years ago, called 30 Things You Didn't Know About Jason Newton. Oh, I had to read through some of them to see which ones I didn't know. And I'll name a few. Your first job was in retail at Kids R Us.
Jason Newton 16:33
Oh, yeah. That was in Baltimore Security Mall.
Angela Tuell 16:37
You know how to play the drums. And at that time, you were learning to play the saxophone. Did that go well?
Jason Newton 16:41
Yeah, I'm a struggling saxophone player. But at my on days, when I'm stressed the most you can find in the basement playing the same 10 songs over and over again. Yes.
Angela Tuell 16:49
That's amazing. I love it. Do your son's play?
Jason Newton 16:52
My son plays, so my oldest plays trumpet he goes to Baltimore School for the Arts. And he's phenomenal. And then I have my youngest who plays violin who's really getting good at it. So I need to practice more if I'm going to hang out with him.
Angela Tuell 17:02
Yeah, you need to keep up.
Jason Newton 17:04
Got my little trio goin'.
Angela Tuell 17:06
And then your favorite subject in school was math, which I was really stumped on that one. I mean, I know you said the pediatrician thing. But how did you love math and end up in a career focused on writing and reading in English?
Jason Newton 17:17
Well, here's the secret behind that: my father is a mathematician, and was a math teacher and for high school here in Baltimore, and then went on to be in the college engineering at Maryland, while we were there. And so he taught me a love for math, not just, you know, you know, the simple things, but just you know, how it applies to you in life. And, and then I just loved it, because math has a defined answer where English didn't. I could write a paper about anything, and it's subjective. Math has one answer, one plus one will always equal two. And I love that about math. So when my sons come home with math, homework, whatever I am first in, you know, I'm raising my hand like, Come on, bring it, you know, bring it my way. Because I think my father did a good such a good job in convincing me that it ain't hard. You just got to apply yourself.
Angela Tuell 18:04
And the skill still hooked in journalism? I'm sure.
Jason Newton 18:07
Sure. Oh, trust me. We're trying to deal with percentages and surveys and that kind of stuff. I at least have. I have that to go on.
Angela Tuell 18:14
Yes. Thank you so much for talking with us today, Jason. I know we'll continue to see amazing work from you. Continue to make us proud.
Jason Newton 18:21
Well, you do the same is good to hear from you. And I'm glad that things are taken off so much. I did some some stalking as well on social media of how you've been doing and it's very, I'm very proud of the work that you're doing. And I think that the work that PR professionals do, without them, I think that we would struggle together so keep doing your thing.
Angela Tuell 18:39
Thank you. We're on the same team, working for the good, right? Okay, exactly. You can watch Jason weekday mornings from 5 to 8 am on WBAL in Baltimore, or streaming live from their app. You can also connect with him on Instagram at Jason_Newton11 or Twitter JNNewtWBAL. We will have those links in the show notes. That's all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We'd love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I'm your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.
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