Category Archives: Researcher stories

Knight Center director in podcast on climate change in Central Asia

A fishing ship abandoned as the Aral Sea shrank near Nukus, Uzbekistan. It’s part of what has been nicknamed a “ghost fleet.” Credit: Eric Freedman

Knight Chair Eric Freedman was a panelist on a podcast about climate change and environmental challenges in the former Soviet republics on Central Asia.

The Majlis podcast from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty examined the signs of climate change in the region and how the governments there are responding. Those signs include melting glaciers, extreme weather and habitat destruction.

The other panelists were Bakytgul Chynybaeva of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz bureau, who was reporting on the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference from Glasgow; independent journalist and environmental researcher Ryskeldi Satke; and Bruce Pannier, the author of the Qishloq Ovozi blog. RFE/RL media-relations manager Muhammad Tahir moderated the discussion.

 

Vivid evidence of desertification of most of the Aral Sea that spans the Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border. Once a vital fishing resource, the Aral largely disappeared when the rivers that fed it were diverted for irrigation to grow cotton and other crops. Credit: Eric Freedman

Freedman is a former Fulbright Scholar in Uzbekistan who has been a guest speaker and researcher in three other Central Asian countries: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. His books include Environmental Crises in Central Asia: From Steppes To Seas, From Deserts To Glaciers (Routledge).

The MSU School of Journalism is now collaborating on a capacity-building project with the Journalism & Mass Communication University in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. The project includes assistance in developing curricula on environmental, health and risk reporting and training for Uzbek faculty members and professional journalists.

A Kazakh villager carries a bucket of water from a well in a desert that once formed the bed of the Aral Sea. Credit: RFE/RL

My environmental journalism internship experience has been nothing but eye-opening for me. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Prior to my internship, I wasn’t too interested in the environment and wasn’t sure what stories needed to be told. It only took a little under a week for me to understand the severity of how many stories were craving to be published. I was never extensively searching for a story pitch because there was always something happening.

But then I began to understand that most of the general public was, like myself prior to my internship; uninterested in the environment. Which broke my heart because without a healthy environment, we would cease to exist. While also considering the amount of environmental journalists compared to regular journalists, my mind was blown. I knew I was playing a very important role in society by sharing stories that weren’t being told.

My biggest skill that I’ve learned is that there’s always more than what meets the eye. This can be interpreted a lot of ways, including types of stories being shared, what’s happening in the world or even what someone is saying. It’s our job to dive deeper and provide context to any situation. This is true for all types of journalism.

I’ve had my fair share of stories, but there’s a few favorites that definitely stick out to me. These include

https://www.wkar.org/environment/2021-06-22/msu-dedicates-new-space-on-campus-to-the-research-and-protection-of-pollinators

If there’s ever an opportunity to become an environmental journalist, I highly recommend taking the opportunity and running with it. My experience has been absolutely incredible.

 

New endangered species book from Knight Center director

Knight Center director Eric Freedman is the lead editor of Communicating Endangered Species: Extinction, News, and Public Policy, a new multidisciplinary environmental communication book that takes a distinctive approach by connecting how media and culture depict and explain endangered species with how policymakers and natural resource managers can or do respond to these challenges in practical terms.

The coeditors are professors Sara Shipley Hiles of the University of Missouri and David B. Sachsman of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The book is available in hardcover and as an e-book.

It’s dedicated to environmental journalists around the world whose efforts continue to bring the extinction and biodiversity crisis to the attention of the public and policy makers and is published by Routledge as part of its Studies in Environmental Communication and Media series.

MSU undergraduates Logan Bry and Alexandra Swanson assisted with proofreading the manuscript. Former MSU master’s student Alexander Killion, now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, is the lead author of a chapter on the reintroduction of wolves to Isle Royale National Park.

Extinction isn’t new. However, the pace of extinction is accelerating globally. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies more than 26,000 species as threatened. The causes are many, including climate change, overdevelopment, human exploitation, disease, overhunting, habitat destruction, and predators. The willingness and the ability of ordinary people, governments, scientists, nongovernmental organizations, and businesses to slow this deeply disturbing acceleration are uncertain. Meanwhile, researchers around the world are laboring to better understand and communicate the possibility and implications of extinctions and to discover effective tools and public policies to combat the threats to species survival. This book presents a history of news coverage of endangered species around the world, examining how and why journalists and other communicators wrote what they did, how attitudes have changed, and why they have changed. It draws on the latest research by chapter authors who are a mix of social scientists, communication experts, and natural scientists. Each chapter includes a mass media and/or cultural aspect.

This book will be essential reading for students, natural resource managers, government officials, environmental activists, and academics interested in conservation and biodiversity, environmental communication and journalism, and public policy.

 

 

New study published on Isle Royale wolf relocations

The well-publicized relocation of wolves from the mainland U.S. and Canada to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior has been taking place without journalists on site.

Female wolf released on Isle Royale. Photo Credit: National Park Service

A newly published study coauthored by Knight Center director Eric Freedman found that coverage in the news media relied heavily on U.S. government sources, with little attention to the views and input from other sources, such as independent experts, Native American and First Nations representatives, park visitors or nearby mainland businesses.

The other authors are University of Michigan doctoral student Alexander Killion and Professor Mark Neuzil, the chair of the Department of Emerging Media at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

“The Effects of Access Restrictions and Communication Strategies for Divisive Environmental Management” examined the strategies and techniques used by the National Park Service and other agencies to keep the press informed. It also looked at how news outlets covered the controversial relocations that began in fall 2018.

The Park Service cited concerns about the health and safety of the wolves and of personnel as the reason to preclude access for journalists. The agency, however, provided the press with a stream of news releases, photos and videos.

The relocations were designed to rebuild the population of gray wolves on Isle Royale at a time when only two wolves were left on the island. Scientists and natural resource managers said it was necessary to rebuilding the wolf population as an effective way to control the number of moose on the island.

The study appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Policy.