Category Archives: Eric Freedman

Eric Freedman is the director of Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism

Journalism students study cross-border environmental problems in Port Huron

Environmental reporting students on the beach at Lakeport State Park

Students in Knight Center director Eric Freedman’s Environmental Reporting class spent a day in Port Huron, Michigan, to explore transborder U.S.-Canadian environmental problems, including the continuing cleanup of a toxic hot spot and the threat of invasive species.

Such problems – along with extreme weather events, air and water pollution, climate warming, wildfires and the like – pay no attention to national borders or political jurisdictions.

The St. Clair River separates Port Huron from Sarnia, Ontario. Both cities are on Lake Huron.

Learning about native plants along the Blue Water River Walk

The recent field visit, supported by a grant from MSU’s Canadian Studies Center, began with a 1-mile hike along the Blue Water River Walk led by Shari Faust and Lynnea McFadden of the Friends of the St. Clair River.

Running for about 40 miles, the river connects Lake Huron with Lake St. Clair.

The U.S. and Canada jointly designated it as an Area of Concern because of contamination from heavy metals, toxic organic, and E. coli bacteria that sparked fish consumption advisories, beach closings and degraded habitat for native wildlife and fish, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sarnia’s Chemical Valley across the St. Clair River from Port Huron’s Blue Water River Walk

Ambling along the river walk – a former railroad switch yard that is now a 10-foot-wide county park – we saw commercial ships plying the St. Clair’s waters, as well as the sprawl of refineries and other industrial operations on the Ontario shore in an area known as Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.

The river walk goes through a partially restored coastal wetland and includes sculptures, a fishing pier, an early 20th century railroad ferry dock, interpretive signs and native plants – plus some invasive plants that members of the Friends group volunteer to pull out.

Armor stone reefs and spawning beds have been placed in the river to create fish habitat.

From there, the group drove to the 565-acre Lakeport State Park on the Lake Huron shore. It was past prime park season, so there were few campers in view.

Sitting in the shade at a picnic table, the students talked with Christina Haska Baugher, an aquatic invasive species biologist at the Department of Natural Resources, who described the damage done to the Great Lakes by invaders and the difficulties in trying to control them.

The final stop was at Anderson’s Pro Bait where owner Joel Anderson discussed changes in Lake Huron fishing activities.

Knight Center director visits Uzbekistan

Health reporting workshop

During a two-week visit to Uzbekistan, Knight Center director Eric Freedman lectured at two universities, spoke about how to report on health issues and health research at a workshop for professional journalists and met with leaders of media development and environmental organizations.

The trip was part of a U.S. State Department-funded, capacity-building project that partners the MSU School of Journalism’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism with the Journalism & Mass Communications University of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, the country’s capital. Three JMCU representatives visited MSU earlier in the fall.

With university Rector Sherzodkhon Kudrathodja

Freedman met with JMCU administrators and instructors, participated in a master’s-level health, science and environmental reporting course and facilitated workshops for faculty, graduate students and working media professionals.

In addition, he lectured to faculty and graduate students at the Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Agricultural Mechanization Engineers on how scientists can more effectively explain their research to the public. He also visited Akfa University, the country’s first private university.

Meeting with doctoral students

His activities included meetings with the NGO Modern Journalism Development Center, the NGO Internews which supports independent media, the State Environmental Committee, the NGO Green Central Asia and Cultural Affairs and Public Affairs officers at the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, which provided the grant. He gave interviews to several news channels, including the environmental nonprofit Ekolog.uz.

Institute of the Sun research facility

He joined graduate students on a field visit to the Centre of Hydro Meteorological Service, which conducts testing for temperature, precipitation and air and soil pollution quality and monitors climate change. He accompanied several faculty members to tour the Institute of Physics and Technology (Institute of the Sun) and the Sukok Reserve, an undeveloped national park area. The institute was a top-secret research facility during Soviet times, calls itself the “world’s largest solar oven” and now develops new materials for industrial, agricultural and scientific uses.

At Sukov Reserve

Freedman’s visit included an “it’s-a-small-world” moment when he and Dilnora Azimova, the project’s JMCU consultant and an MSU alum, attended a “Shubert by Candlelight” piano concert at the State Conservatory. They didn’t know that two other MSU alumni would be at the concert: the internally acclaimed pianist and music producer Sergei Kvitko, who lives in Lansing, and nuclear physicist Alisher Sanetullaev, a university professor in Tashkent. He and Azimova had never met either of them and were unaware of Kvitko’s MSU connection before the concert.

Introducing the inaugural SciComm Identities Project Fellowship cohort!

The University of Rhode Island’s Metcalf Institute, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and the URI Science and Story Lab are excited to introduce the first cohort of SciComm Identities Project Fellows. Out of a competitive applicant pool, thirteen Fellows were selected to participate in this innovative science communication fellowship for pre-tenure faculty of color. The 2023 Fellowship will focus on the intersections of climate change and energy, and Fellows study issues that range from data-driven sustainable transportation to institutional barriers of energy poverty. Fellows come from diverse ethnic backgrounds ranging from Indigenous North African to Cuban, and show a strong history of personal commitment to science communication and inclusivity of underrepresented communities. Many are first-generation Americans and the first to attend college in their family.

All of the Fellows have shown a specific emphasis on improving engagement and science communication with either Black/African American, Asian, or Latinx communities, with a common theme being education and outreach to K-12 students of color. “I believe the SCIP fellowship will help me facilitate a more inclusive program of research,” says Dr. Dominic Bednar, a new Fellow and Assistant Professor at Arizona State University. “I’m interested in being a part of the future of peer-reviewed science communication products beyond academic articles that may actually reach stakeholders in the community and policy makers.” Check out the rest of the Fellows here!

Uzbek journalism educators visit Knight Center, J-School

Meeting with Journalism School director Tim Vos

 

For the past two weeks, the J-School hosted representatives from the Journalism & Mass Communications University of Uzbekistan as part of a capacity-building environmental and health reporting project funded by the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan.

Knight Center director Eric Freedman developed the project and secured the grant.

At the State News

Nozima Muratova, who led the delegation, is the vice rector for research and innovation at the 4-year-old university in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. Mukarram Otamurodova is a Ph.D. student who teaches an environmental, health and science course. Dilnora Azimova, who earned her master’s degree in MSU’s Health and Risk Communication Program, is a project consultant.

With journalism librarian Kathleen Weessies

 

They gave guest lectures in environmental reporting and health & risk communication classes, met with Michigan environmental and health communicators and reporters, and led a brown bag discussion of Uzbekistan’s media landscape for the MSU Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies.

Meeting with Steve Hanson, Associate provost and Dean of International Studies & Programs

They also visited the Detroit News, Crain Communications, Detroit Public TV and the State News and met with MSU’s dean of International Studies & Programs.

In addition, they toured three environmentally significant sites: MSU’s Horticultural Gardens, Saugatuck State Park and the Granger landfill in Lansing.

Freedman is scheduled to visit their university later this month under the State Department grant.