Our Commitment: Opening thoughts from the new Knight Center director


Eric Freedman

By Eric Freedman

(Eric Freedman was recently appointed as the chair & director of MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism)

The times, they are a-changin’, and as I take on the position of Knight Chair and director, I know that we don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowin’. For environmental and science journalists, those rapid, dramatic changes come in the technology we use to gather and analyze information, in the media that disseminates the fruits of our reporting, in the expectations of our audiences and in the issues and events we cover.
Yet many things at our core don’t change.
Here at the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, we remain

committed to imbuing students we educate and professionals we train with a commitment to fairness, balance, accuracy and ethics. Regardless of technology, they must clearly explain complex science and policy to a range of audiences, from high school students to the general public to professionals to researchers, in the United States and abroad. They need to tell stories that resonate with those audiences. They need to understand how environmental and science issues pervade education, foreign and national affairs, economics and business, health, sports, energy, local government and every beat they cover. They need to recognize the global aspects of much of the news and research discoveries they write, broadcast, film, photograph, design or post about. Controversies and problems about climate change, nuclear energy, endangered species, food security, alternative energy, air quality and other issues don’t stop at national borders.
Our responsibilities at the Knight Center – my responsibilities as its new director and that of our team of faculty, staff and students – include deepening the School of Journalism’s engagement and collaboration with colleagues and students in other units at Michigan State and beyond to jointly pursue research and projects that serve our mutual interests.
Our responsibilities include recruiting strong, creative-thinking students committed to environmental and science journalism and communications for our master’s and PhD programs, as well as undergraduates interested in our environmental journalism concentration. Meanwhile, we’re expanding opportunities for non-journalism students – such as those studying environmental science and policy and those in agriculture and natural resources-related majors – to take our courses to learn how to better communicate with the public.
Our responsibilities include continuing to examine how the press covers environmental and science issues – such as the use and diversity of news sources and the ways that stories are framed – and how environmental and science journalists and communicators do their jobs.
Our responsibilities include expanding ongoing relationships with WKAR public radio and television here in East Lansing, Detroit Public TV, the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and the Journalism School’s Capital News Service, plus establishing new connections with other professional media outlets and organizations.
Our responsibilities include building research and project partnerships in the United States and internationally with environmental and science journalism groups and with nongovernmental organizations and public agencies that deal with environmental issues and policies.
And our responsibilities include engaging our Environmental Journalism alumni from mass media, science, advocacy, health care and government settings, using their vast and diverse experiences to help us teach, mentor, inspire and network with our students.
I welcome your comments and suggestions, whether by email (freedma5@msu.edu) phone (517-355-4729) or face-to-face at the Knight Center.