Category Archives: Eric Freedman

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

Knight Center director writes on presidents and racism

How have American presidents fared in confronting racism?

Poorly, according to Knight Center director Eric Freedman and former Detroit Free Press journalist Stephen Jones, who teaches history at Central Michigan University.

President Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington at the White House in 1901.

In a new column for The Conversation, Freedman and Jones say the anger over racial injustice that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s killing has forced Americans to confront their history, including the role of presidential leadership – and lack of leadership – on racial issues. An honest assessment of American presidential leadership on race reveals a handful of courageous actions, they write, but an abundance of racist behavior, even by those remembered as equal rights supporters.

Rocky Mountain National Park – 2 ways to look at it

By Eric Freedman

Moose ambles across a road in the national park. Image: Kalie Buchman

I recently beat Ivanka Trump to Rocky Mountain National Park by a few days, but our purposes for being there were dramatically different.

For Trump, the 358-square-mile natural treasure was a mere backdrop to laud embattled U.S. Sen. Corey Gardner, the Colorado Republican who successfully sponsored legislation to provide more funding for the cash-strapped national park system and other federal lands. He’s up for reelection against John Hickenlooper, a former Democratic governor.

Congressional passage of the bipartisan money bill provided a time peg for the visit by the president’s daughter and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Trump said in a statement from the White House, “Working with Sen. Gardner on the Great American Outdoors Act, we are securing funding for the next 100 years to preserve our national parks and public lands.”

Mid-summer patches of snow high in Rocky Mountain National Park. Image: Kalie Buchman

The spending bill is intended to reduce a massive backlog of maintenance projects for the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education. It also will provide permanent and full support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Last year, the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit research organization, reported an $11.9 billion maintenance backlog at national parks. That figure did not include the cost of maintenance backlogs at the other federal agencies that will benefit from the new funding. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Journalism students shine with COVID-19 coverage

By Eric Freedman

While the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc around the globe, our environmental journalism and Capital News Service students are bringing localized news to papers and online news outlets across Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

Our stories address a wide range of topics with impact on our readers — from domestic abuse to police suicides, from online education to expected fall college enrollments, from Great Lakes research to financial insecurity, from telemedicine to public transit, from hunting and fishing to child support payments, from boater safety to women’s shelters.

The Knight Center’s Great Lakes Echo and CNS play an important role as many local and community newspapers struggle due to plummeting ad revenue. One newspaper reports a 90% drop in weekly ad pages.

In Michigan and across the nation, some papers have laid off employees and cut back or eliminated print editions. As their news hole shrinks, the amount of pandemic-related information they can provide their readers dwindles as well.

We help fill that gap. So does Focal Point, the Journalism School’s broadcast news magazine. Those students’ coverage just won a first-award place from the Society of Professional Journalists in the weekly College Coronavirus Coverage competition.

And while news organizations are putting more coronavirus stories and information online, many families still lack broadband internet service for infrastructure, technological and economic regions. Data from Connect Michigan, a nonprofit group advocating for increased internet access, shows nearly 381,000 homes across the state lack broadband service. At the same time, the public libraries that provide local residents with free internet access are closed.

That adversely affects adults who must work at home, job-hunters and children who are supposed to do schoolwork online. Continue reading