Jason Newton: Co-Anchor WBAL TV 11 News Today & Host 11 TV Hill in Baltimore

 

Angela Tuell  00:05

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 the 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  01:00

Hey, it’s good to hear from you again.

 

Angela Tuell  01:02

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  01:23

Oh, thank you. It’s been an absolute wild ride from way back in the days at the University of Maryland, and then through the eastern shore. I mean, there are 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  01:40

I think that’s why you’ve gotten so far because you’re so humble.

 

Jason Newton  01:43

Thank you.

 

Angela Tuell  01:45

Tell us a little bit more about your career path and how you landed back in Maryland?

 

Jason Newton  01:49

Yeah, well, it was, it was really odd. Now, I’ll give you a 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 were some really great people in the College of Journalism, who after searching and searching and talking to family and friends, 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  02:46

Yeah. And it’s the rest is history, right?

 

Jason Newton  02:49

Yeah, it literally is. You know, and to be honest with you, I mean, even in Salisbury even though it seems like an 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 be within it.

 

Angela Tuell  03:18

Yeah, that’s a little long for you know, your first job sometimes. So just you’re moving up different roles. And, you know, how did you end up staying there that long?

 

Jason Newton  03:27

Yeah, that was it. Like I felt I really did feel myself climbing this ladder. 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 being in Salisbury is 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 the 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 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  04:06

And then you went to Milwaukee, right?

 

Jason Newton  04:08

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 Milwaukee would be my Ph.D., and just in still learning and just trying to figure out my voice as a reporter. And things I enjoy.

 

Angela Tuell  04:42

And then you get WBAL. Were you amazed?

 

Jason Newton  04:46

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 of 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, as Keith Miller. So 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  05:32

And people are thinking that about you now. Your name.

 

Jason Newton  05:35

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  05:44

I know. You said that. early in your career covering Hurricane Katrina from Louisiana was extremely impactful. How so?

 

Jason Newton  05:51

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 with the assumption that me and a photographer, were gonna meet up and it ended up being just me. And they gave me a camera and a fistful of money for incidentals, and hotels and that. And I just got on a fire truck and drove to a road to Louisiana.

 

Angela Tuell  06:21

From Maryland.

 

Jason Newton  06:22

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 the 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  07:29

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  07:42

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 feel like their conversations and not reading a teleprompter. And I think I enjoy that more than anything.

 

Angela Tuell  08:54

Do you help produce that too? Are you?

 

Jason Newton  08:56

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 shows 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, 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  09:47

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  09:56

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 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 kid’s 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, make that one of our goals throughout that year 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 I can think 30 stations across the US. So all of the stations, we’re taking this upon themselves, 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 are 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, too, 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 time as a kid sort of looking for the easier route, or things got a little bit tough like I need to change direction and 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 the deal with the change in Salisbury no leaving Salisbury 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 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 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 is just little milestones. I think that along the way you get comfortable with and you get good at them. And it’s just like breathing, you don’t think of it?

 

Angela Tuell  14:43

Yeah, like riding a bike, right?

 

Jason Newton  14:44

Yep, exactly.

 

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  14:53

I’m fearful that I’m going to be known more for those than 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 case 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, 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, and they can report things before you do. 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 also I think, 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 sons 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 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, 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 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.

Listen to how Jason Newton went from firmly believing he was going to be a pediatrician, to his journey into and through his career in journalism.  In this episode, Jason talks about his love of stories, seeking the truth and understanding.

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