J-School Leader in Environmental Reporting

Posted on: December 3, 2013

Great-Lakes-MainPublic understanding of environmental issues depends on a well-educated, trained and persistent cadre of journalists. These environmental journalists must be able to sift through and effectively communicate the complexity of science, health and geo-political underpinnings of every issue. CAS provides a top-notch educational experience to prepare environmental reporters who help local residents, as well as state, national and international decision-makers comprehend how environmental issues are entwined with so many other key issues.

Centrally located in a state surrounded by the Great Lakes and Canada, as well as neighboring states that have vast stretches of natural resources along with large industrialized metropolitan areas, our J-School is uniquely positioned to serve as a major international center for environmental reporting, education and research.

As a leader in environmental journalism, the J-School is home to the John S. and James L. Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, launched in 1994 when the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation created the nation's first endowed chair in environmental journalism. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Fulbright Scholar Eric Freedman was recently named the new Knight Chair. As the Knight Chair, he serves as the director of the center as well. He is also an associate professor in the School of Journalism and director of the Capital News Service, the school's public affairs reporting internship program. Please join me in congratulating Eric who is well poised to apply his personal experience in environmental journalism to advance practice and research in this pivotal field.

Freedman joins Knight Center associate director Dave Poulson, who also is a recognized leader in environmental journalism. Before joining the center in 2003, Poulson spent more than two decades as a professional reporter and editor, most of it covering the environment. Poulson also deserves congratulations for just being elected to the board of directors for the Society of Environmental Journalists. He teaches environmental, investigative, computer-assisted and public affairs reporting, and is the founder and editor of the center's award-winning, nonprofit environmental news service, Great Lakes Echo.

Each day, more than 1,000 people read Great Lakes Echo, which provides one of the richest sources of original environmental reporting in the region. Reporting is conducted by graduate and undergraduate students, paid journalists and through partnerships with other university journalism programs such as Kent State and the Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota, as well as other nonprofit news agencies.

Additionally, the Knight Center and its Echo news service also support environmental reporting on WKAR public radio and online to other news outlets through the Capital News Service. Collectively, these news services provide our students excellent opportunities to establish themselves regionally and nationally as emerging environmental reporters. Hundreds of their stories are published in newspapers, online and aired by broadcast media throughout the Great Lakes region and beyond each year.

The center also organizes and teaches workshops in the United States and abroad to help professional reporters improve their coverage of the environment and conducts research to advance environmental journalism. It recently concluded a three-year project funded by the National Science Foundation to train scientists and journalists to better communicate the implications of climate change to the public. It was also funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to teach journalists and health officials to better report on beach pollution and nearshore ecosystems.

Another noteworthy honor was awarded this year to Knight Center research director, Bruno Takahashi, Ph.D., together with co-author Edson Tandoc. They were presented a top faculty award by the Environmental Communication Interest Group of the International Communication Association for a study comparing environmental journalists and bloggers in the United States.

Takahashi is an assistant professor of environmental journalism and communication with a joint appointment in our School of Journalism and Department of Communication. His research interests include media coverage of environmental affairs, the discourse of nature, environmental behavior change, risk communication and the links between media and policy. He has conducted extensive research on climate change media coverage, with a particular interest in developing countries.

The J-School also is distinguishing itself as a leader in environmental journalism through its use of technology to experiment and produce environmental news. Technologies being used by students include satellite images, drones, animations, games, contests and other nontraditional methods. Partnerships among other departments within CAS, as well as across campus with entities such as the Kellogg Biological Station and MSU's Remote Sensing & Geographic Information Systems, provide meaningful ways for our students to be innovative in how they report compelling environmental stories.

Please check out the "Faculty Feature" in this issue of CAS News to learn more about Freedman and visit Great Lakes Echo online to follow the fascinating work of our faculty and students. Again, hats off to Professor Freedman and his world-class Knight Center team!

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