Spotlight: The radio man

Walk into Vice President of Communications Mike Freedman’s office and his passion is obvious.

It is adorned with relics dating back to the beginning of radio broadcast. A reel-to-reel tape recorder, given to him by CBS, sits next to his desk. The recorder played the first news broadcast in America, the “World News Round-Up.” Across the room is a Teletype machine that was used in the Senate Press Gallery in the 1940s and ’50s.

Freedman returned to GW in his current position in August 2000. He worked as the director of public affairs at GW from 1992 to 1998, until CBS Radio Network News offered him an executive position in New York.

“It was a dream come true to be sitting in the chair where Murrow sat,” Freedman said.

Edward R. Murrow joined CBS in 1935 and became famous for his eyewitness reports of the events leading to and during World War II. Radio broadcasting was Freedman’s passion, and the opportunity allowed him to fulfill a childhood dream.

During his tenure at CBS, the station received 12 Edward R. Murrow Awards for Excellence, which line Freedman’s bookshelf in his office. While Freedman emphasizes winning the awards was a team effort, the station did not win any before Freedman joined the team.

“I served as executive producer for some of the broadcasts that won, created another program that won, ‘The CBS World News Roundup Evening Edition’ and oversaw the editorial operations for the rest,” Freedman said.

The network also won other awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, New York Festivals International Radio Competition, etc. for a total of more than 20 during Freedman’s tenure.

He worked at CBS for three years before he made the decision to return to the GW.

“President Trachtenberg wooed me and twisted my arm to come back to GW,” Freedman said.

After much consideration, he returned to create the position he serves now, which allowed Freedman more creative freedom than his previous position as public affairs director. As Vice President of Communications, Freedman works to promote the University along with the Media Relations team that includes Gretchen King, Jim Hess, Karen Hetrick and Bob Ludwig.

Freedman said his responsibilities range from facilitating media activities to managing publications to handling all major University events. He heads operation of Lisner Auditorium and the Alumni House.

Freedman oversaw the final stages of construction for the new Media and Public Affairs building and was responsible for the grand opening of the building in March. Broadcasters Bernard Shaw and Marvin Kalb spoke at the event.

“It was a real knock-out opening for the building,” Freedman said.

Freedman oversees GW’s hosting of CNN’s “Crossfire.” Bill Press, a co-host of the political talk show, told Freedman the week of broadcasts this year were some of the most successful ones in the show’s 19-year history. This year marked the show’s third visit to campus.

Freedman also helped bring “The Kalb Report” to GW. Marvin Kalb, host of the show, is a close friend of Freedman.

Students can attend the show for free, which is taped live for C-SPAN at the National Press Club. It is co-sponsored by GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, National Press Club and Harvard University but paid for through a grant from the Knight Foundation.

This year, “The Kalb Report” is hosting a seven-part journalism series titled “Journalism at the Crossroads.” Freedman said the motivation for bringing the Kalb Report closer to GW is two-fold: it brings publicity to GW and takes GW students to the National Press Club. The first speaker in the series was Dan Rather, and Freedman estimated that 600 students attended.

“This was an opportunity for students to gain candid thoughts and views of someone like Dan Rather,” Freedman said.

Freedman said there are three main goals for the events he plans on campus. The first is to embrace the students. The second is to bring positive publicity for GW. The final goal is to be cost effective.

Freedman said he is “cognizant” of the University’s expenses, and contrary to what people may believe, the University is not out to get students’ money. Freedman said GW has turned away high-profile events because students would not be able to attend.

“The worst thing is for a student to e-mail or call home to say ‘so and so was on campus, but I couldn’t go,'” Freedman said.

Obviously, events have limited seating, but Freedman said as long as he is around, all events will involve students

“Students make this place work,” Freedman said.

Freedman has also revamped publications, by adding color and more inviting headlines to By George newspaper. He said the paper, which prints twice a month, is a worthwhile publication for students and faculty.

With the help of Freedman, GW launched a radio show this fall called “Capitol Jazz.” The show is a joint venture between GW, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and the Kennedy Center. The show airs for one hour each week on WRGW.

Students involved with radio join with those in the jazz department to form what Freedman called “a labor of love.”

“It is a great way to communicate and build relationships with people,” he said. “It is a linkage of students, faculty and other elements in a positive project.”

Freedman also teaches a class titled “Radio News: History and Practice.” On the first day of class, he gives students an AM radio. The class centers on how radio evolved into television and teaches students how to write broadcast copy and develop a broadcast voice.

The class is intimate, Freedman said. Sometimes his students meet in Freedman’s office to use the radio equipment he has accumulated over the years.

Freedman said there is no other place he would rather work than at GW. He said he is puzzled by studies that show an overwhelming amount of people who work and do not enjoy what they do.

“I don’t understand that,” Freedman said. “I like to have fun. You can invigorate other people when you’re having fun and love what you’re doing.”

Freedman said he does not find any aspects of his job tedious. In aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and recent anthrax deaths, Freedman has been working closely with the University Relations Crisis Management and Information Support Services.

“Dealing with the current situation is tough, but it’s tough for everybody,” Freedman said.

GW has expanded the content of its Web site to include updates of the University’s status and the latest events affecting the GW community.

Freeman gives students credit for handling the current situation the best they can. Freedman said he cannot think of anywhere he would rather be than at GW during these trying times.

“It gives greater depth to every student here as they go about college and the rest of their lives, Freedman said. “I sure wouldn’t trade being here.”

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