Freedman remembered as ‘hard act to follow,’ in move to UMD

Since he was young, Michael Freedman had a passion for broadcasting. He began listening to a transistor radio under his pillow as a boy and rose to the rank of award-winning executive producer at CBS radio. Now as a professor, he watches journalists – and journalism itself – develop.

After 16 years of faculty and administrative posts at GW, Freedman will leave the University in January to assume a top-level position at the University of Maryland.

Freedman worked as GW’s public affairs director from 1992 to 1998, and as vice president for communications from 2000 to 2009 – a position he created that is responsible for shaping the image of the University. In his role as vice president for communications, Freedman oversaw the move of University-wide Commencement to the National Mall.

During his time as an executive producer at CBS Radio Network News between University posts, the station earned 12 Edward R. Murrow Awards for Excellence. Murrow, famous for his eyewitness reports before and during World War II, has long been Freedman’s idol because of his devotion to broadcasting.

“It was a dream come true,” Freedman said of his time at CBS.

After his stint in New York, Freedman returned to GW in August 2000.

As the founding executive director of GW’s Global Media Institute in 2009, which looks at the evolution of journalism through a public television and radio series, Freedman has rubbed elbows with media legends – like Rupert Murdoch, Diane Sawyer, Walter Cronkite and Katie Couric.

At the institute, Freedman is the principal investigator for radio series “This Just In!” and “The Kalb Report,” a discussion on the press that is presented live to students and professional journalists over American Public Television.

Heather Date, associate director of the Global Media Institute and producer for “The Kalb Report,” said Freedman’s efforts to establish GW partnerships with CNN, POLITICO, the National Press Club, the Newseum have facilitated “unique, hands-on learning opportunities for students and our greater community.”

Freedman represents one of the few remaining GW leaders handpicked by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

He was the third-highest paid professor at the University in fiscal year 2010, according to the most recent financial disclosure documents.

After leaving GW, Freedman will assume a new position as senior vice president and professor at the University of Maryland’s University College, a global higher education and professional studies program.

At UMUC, Freedman will develop online programs for mid-career journalists who want to revamp their careers in the digital age. He is enthusiastic about the chance to educate journalists who want to learn more about the developments that have been changing the field since their careers began.

Even with his heavy involvement in the Global Media Institute, Freedman believes that what he will miss most about the University is teaching.

“My greatest experience at GW is being in the classroom with students,” he said. “It tops everything.”

Lindsay Underwood, a 2011 SMPA graduate, said she found Freedman’s radio news course inspirational. Underwood, who went on to intern for the Global Media Institute, now works as its program assistant.

“He has helped me to become the person I want to be, both personally and professionally, and has always pushed me to dream a little bigger,” she said.

Freedman will continue to work with “This Just In!” and “The Kalb Report” through the end of the year, and will remain actively involved in the Global Media Institute as it searches for its new director. Marvin Kalb, professor emeritus at Harvard University and host of “The Kalb Report,” said the show will continue as long as Freedman remains its producer.

“Whether the program is co-sponsored by GW or the [University of Maryland] is less important than that it continue at the same level of ethics and excellence – and that means Mike remains with the program to give it direction and class,” Kalb said. “Working with Mike Freedman has been one of the joys of my life – professional and personal.”

SMPA Director Frank Sesno called Freedman “a hard act to follow,” saying the University will sorely miss his presence.

“He has brought a special dedication that has made a huge difference in people’s lives,” Sesno said.

Both of Freedman’s sons, as well as one daughter-in-law, graduated from the University, and he said he and his wife will remain connected to the community.

“I don’t think I could ever fully leave GW,” he added.

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