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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Broadcast executive and producer, SMPA professor dies at 71

Faculty, students and friends remember Michael Freedman as a devoted educator with a warm, kind and thoughtful presence.
Courtesy of Heather Date
Michael Freedman (left) sits alongside former CBS and NBC chief diplomatic correspondent Marvin Kalb (right) at a National Press Club event.

Michael Freedman, a broadcast news manager, editor and producer, professorial lecturer and the former University vice president of communications, died of pancreatic cancer on Sept. 18. He was 71.

Freedman began at GW as the vice president for communications in 2000 and started working as a professorial lecturer in media and public affairs in 2001, according to a University release. Faculty, students and friends remember Freedman as a devoted educator with a warm, kind and thoughtful presence who was passionate about introducing his students to the world of journalism.

Freedman was the executive producer of “The Kalb Report,” a television series that explored the role of the press in democracy, for nearly three decades from 1994 to 2023. He also led production at GW for more than 700 live CNN Crossfire telecasts in the early 2000s, according to the release.

The release states that Freedman also served as the president of the National Press Club in 2020 and was the managing editor for United Press International’s broadcast division. He also served as the general manager of CBS Radio Network and won 12 Edward R. Murrow Awards for Excellence during his career. Freedman was also a senior vice president and journalist in residence at the University of Maryland Global Campus, per the release.

Joe Bondi, one of Freedman’s former students who graduated in 2001, said taking a class with Freedman was “everything a GW class should be” and included excursions to major newsrooms across D.C. and an “unbelievable” array of guest speakers in classes. Bondi said Freedman was a passionate professor and mentor and that the students he mentored over the years will represent his legacy.

“It’s one of the things that I think makes the GW education as amazing as it is, the city is your classroom and these practitioners are your teachers and there was just no better example of that than Mike’s class,” Bondi said.

Bondi said some of his favorite memories of Freedman include when he recruited Tony Bennett, an honorary doctor of music and GW President’s Medal recipient, to speak at his Commencement in 2001 and when they both rode the “rollercoaster” of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series win together. Bondi said he and Freedman bonded over a love of baseball and kept in touch over the years by getting coffee together and talking on the phone during their commutes.

“Mike made friends everywhere he went. There were just very few people that weren’t his friend,” Bondi said. “He just had a kind of personality about him that people were just attracted to, and he kept his friends so close and that is a big part of his legacy is his network of friends. And we’re all connected through him.”

Heather Date, a former student of Freedman’s and the vice president for communications and engagement at UMGC, said she first met Freedman when she was a sophomore at GW in 1995 when he invited her to be a volunteer for “The Kalb Report.” Date said Freedman cared deeply about media history, news literacy and journalism ethics and excellence.

“For 28 years, Mike Freedman was my mentor, colleague, and most of all — my friend,” Date said in an email. “I often said that Mike was trying to ‘save journalism one crazy idea at a time.’ He saw boundless possibilities in ideas, and he saw unlimited potential in people.”

Steven Livingston, a professor of media and public affairs, said Freedman was a “consummate gentleman” and a beloved professor and colleague. Livingston said Freedman had a way of “zeroing in” on somebody when he was talking to them.

Livingston said he bonded with Freedman over being from Michigan and a “shared love” of the 1960s era of the Detroit Tigers.

“​​He was a quiet, gentle, thoughtful presence, never raised his voice and always treated people with utmost respect, and that’s a rare combination of talents and I’ll always associate that with him,” Livingston said.

Peter Loge, an associate professor of media and public affairs and the director of SMPA, said his fondest memories of Freedman were the conversations they would have about his concern and commitment to his students. Loge said when Freedman was sick, his primary concern was making sure he was still available for his students.

“What stands out is that everything I’ve heard from former students and friends of Mike’s is his commitment to and belief in broadcasting as a medium, and he believed fully and completely in his students,” Loge said.

Loge added that Freedman “brought students to history” by teaching media history classes at the Newseum and later the National Press Club.

“You and your classmates who are at WRGW and GWTV and The Hatchet and The Black Ace and MediaFile and everywhere else, you are the legacy,” Loge said. “And it’s up to us, up to me and my colleagues, to ensure that legacy.”

Frank Sesno, a professor of media and public affairs, said Freedman was a “tireless” teacher for his students. Sesno said Freedman brought students to the story and journalism “giants” to the classroom.

“It was very personal for Mike. GW was a very personal place for him because the students felt like his extended family as well as his extended journalism family,” Sesno said. “And he wanted to impart to students the impact that journalism has, the courage that it often takes to do journalism and the benefits that everyone gets when journalism is done right.”

Sesno added that Freedman was proud to be a part of “The Kalb Report” and that Freedman was the “guy behind the camera” who brought the show together. Sesno said Freedman always made an effort to bring students into the show to give them the opportunity to learn from the featured journalists.

“He wanted young people to hear from older people to pass these traditions and this knowledge down through generations of journalists, aspiring journalists and people who understood or wanted to learn from journalism,” Sesno said.

Steven Roberts, a J.B. and M.C. Shapiro professor of media and public affairs, said in an email that Freedman was a “mensch,” or a person of high integrity and honor. Roberts said Freedman taught with passion and mentored dozens of students.

José Domingos, a barber at Puglisi Haircuts located at 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, said Freedman came into the shop every week, was always happy and had a great personality.

“He’s a friend,” Domingos said. “He isn’t even like a customer. He’s like a friend to us.”

Antonio Puglisi, who owns the barbershop, said Freedman, a longtime customer and friend, was always nice to talk to when he came into the shop.

“We all feel sorry for the family,” Puglisi said. “We want to express our condolences.”

Freedman is survived by his wife, Renee, his two sons Danny and Brian, who are also GW alumni, five grandchildren and his brother, according to the Washington Post.

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