Online workshop teaches MSU researchers to explain what they do

Scientists at a Knight Center workshop in Rwanda learn to communicate their research. Image: David Poulson

By David Poulson

Ever wish the public better understood the science and research you produce?

Both are far too important to confine to researchers and academics. Building a public constituency for them is key to making good decisions and policy. It is also important for advancing your career.

MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism offers a free online workshop this summer to teach MSU students and faculty to engage public audiences with science and other research.

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University journalism educators decry arrests and violence directed at journalists

Editor’s note: Eric Freedman, the director of Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism,  is among 23 Knight chairs nationwide who signed this open letter regarding arrests and violence directed at journalists during protests demanding racial justice:

In recent weeks, the latest killings of African-Americans by law enforcement have not only anguished our country but locked its attention on police brutality directed at communities of color. As Americans have tried to come to terms with our history of racism, we condemn its presence in our profession and call for media outlets to diversify their staffs from the top down. We also note that journalists, including those of color, have been victims of police misconduct in recent days, and we are disturbed at the large number of attacks perpetrated on all those attempting to uphold a free press in the service of democracy.

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We lose when the public space becomes a battlespace

David Poulson

By David Poulson

The guard burst from the presidential gatehouse with his gun drawn.

“Stop that,” he yelled as he pointed his weapon at me.

Stunned, I slowly lowered my phone to the ground. I was dressed for an early morning run in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi in Africa. As I often do when working out-of-town, I had combined my morning run with a little sightseeing.

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Knight Center’s Cepak, Van Witsen, earn doctorates

Two doctoral students affiliated with the Knight Center earned their Ph.Ds. at the end of the spring semester.

Tony Cepak and Tony Van Witsen successfully defended their dissertations on topics related to environmental and science journalism.

Tony Cepak

Cepak’s dissertation used oral history, archival and ethnographic fieldwork to explore the long- term picture-making projects of Jack Corn and Milton Rogovin in Appalachian coal fields during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Corn, a photojournalist, and Rogovin, a social documentary photographer, both worked to disrupt popular discourse and advance mining photography past the stoic, soot-covered aesthetics of the early 20th century.

His dissertation, “Views of the Valley of Despair: The Photography of Jack Corn and Milton Rogovin in Appalachian Coal Communities (1956-1979),” examines the intimate and powerful imagery they created that repositions coal mining from being celebrated as a material vital to economic and social prosperity, to illuminating the exploitive and devastating effects mining had on miners, their families, their communities and the land.

Tony Van Witsen

Van Witsen’s dissertation, “How Daily Journalists Verify Numbers and Statistics in News Stories: Towards a Theory,” recognizes that statistics are widely acknowledged as an essential part of journalism but acknowledges that routine news coverage involving statistics leaves much to be desired.

He examined the verification process in detail by combining 1) qualitative interviews with 15 working journalists about their attitudes, decision-making and work practices regarding statistics; 2) a content analysis of statistical information in a sample of stories created by these journalists; and 3) an item-by-item examination of the decision-making processes behind each statistic in each sampled stories.

Appalachian miner and wife. Milton Rogovin, 1962–1987

With a framed portrait of John F. Kennedy at his side, Ed Marlowe, paralyzed from a roof fall in a coal mine, gazes out his window to see who is approaching the house.
Jack Corn, 1969