Category Archives: Research


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.

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.



Study released on predatory “scholarly” journals in journalism and mass communication research

Eric Freedman

A new article by Knight Center director Eric Freedman and Professor Bahtiyar Kurambayev of KIMEP University in Kazakhstan explores how predatory journals use deceptive and unethical tactics to recruit scholars as ostensible editorial board members and manuscript reviewers. Two such journals listed scholars without their consent or knowledge. Others asked unsuccessfully to be removed from the journals’ posted list of board members and reviewers.

Predatory journals mislead authors with promises of meaningful peer review and editorial control when, in reality, the publishers charge high “article processing fees” and articles appear with little or no editing.

Prof. Bahtiyar Kurambayev

Freedman and Kurambayev used a survey and interviews to examine the practices of Insight-News Media and Journalism and Mass Communication – whose title is deceptively similar to Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, the flagship publication of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication.

The findings have practical implications for research in journalism and mass communication, especially for academics in developing country with insufficient English-language proficiency and who face publish-or-perish pressures.

The study is the first of its kind to focus on predatory journals in journalism and mass communication and appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing.