Michael Freedman: Held Top Positions at UPI and CBS Radio

From a Washington Post obit by Matt Schudel headlined “Michael Freedman, radio executive and university official, dies at 71”:

Michael Freedman, a broadcast journalist who, as a top executive at the CBS radio network, produced some of Walter Cronkite’s final broadcasts and later was a university administrator and lecturer, died in Alexandria, Va.

Mr. Freedman was drawn to radio from childhood, listening to baseball broadcasts of his hometown Detroit Tigers. “People have deep-seated reasons for going into radio,” he told the Detroit Jewish Weekly. “It’s dramatic and intense. You live for it.”

After beginning his career as a sportscaster, anchor and news director in Michigan, Mr. Freedman came to Washington in 1986 to lead the broadcast division of United Press International.

Later, after stint as a Capitol Hill press secretary and as public affairs director at George Washington University, he returned to radio in 1998 as general manager of CBS radio network news in New York.

Although Mr. Freedman was at CBS for less than three years, he helped revitalize the network’s radio operations through new technology and in-depth programming. At the time, CBS had 600 radio affiliates, reaching more than 30 million listeners a week.

One of his initiatives was to bring some of CBS’s most storied correspondents back to the airwaves, including Richard C. Hottelet, Howard K. Smith and Robert Trout, who had been part of the network’s World War II coverage, along with renowned newscaster Edward R. Murrow.

“You will not find an individual in journalism more dedicated to the ideals of the profession than Mike,” Harvey Nagler, a onetime CBS vice president who led the radio network for 18 years, said in an interview. “He never let us forget the roots of CBS News. That was his passion.”

Mr. Freedman also persuaded Cronkite, who had been the anchor of the “CBS Evening News” from 1962 to 1981, to come out of retirement to help cover space launches and to narrate a 30-part radio series called “Walter Cronkite’s Postscripts to the 20th Century.”

Cronkite happened to be in the CBS studio in 1999 when the Senate voted to acquit President Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial. Mr. Freedman asked Cronkite if he wanted to get behind the microphone to deliver breaking news for CBS for the first time in 18 years.

“He looked a little surprised,” Mr. Freedman told Cronkite’s biographer Douglas Brinkley. “Then his eyes twinkled, and he said, ‘Sure.’”

The network received calls from listeners all over the country, and a man in Wisconsin said he drove off the road after hearing Cronkite’s familiar voice on his car radio.

In 2000, Mr. Freedman returned to Washington, becoming vice president for communications at GWU. He taught classes in journalism history, arranged for CNN to broadcast its “Crossfire” program from campus and led an effort to move the university’s spring commencement ceremonies to the National Mall.

Since 2012, Mr. Freedman had been a senior vice president for communications at the University of Maryland Global Campus, which provides online educational courses.

Michael Gene Freedman was born in Detroit. He was 6 when his father, who ran a kosher butcher shop, died. His mother worked in drugstores to provide for her three sons.

As a child, Mr. Freedman listened to baseball games and other programs on a transistor radio.

“I didn’t realize until many years later that radio became a late-night friend,” Mr. Freedman told the Detroit Jewish Weekly in 1989. “It made dealing with the death of my father easier.”

He began to work in radio while studying at Detroit’s Wayne State University, from which he graduated in 1974. (He later endowed a journalism scholarship at his alma mater.) Mr. Freedman eventually became news director at Detroit’s WCAR-AM, then one of the country’s first all-news stations.

In Washington, he led UPI’s broadcast division from 1986 to 1990, then spent two years as press secretary to Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.), the Democratic House whip.

From 1994 until its final episode in February 2023, Mr. Freedman was executive producer of “The Kalb Report,” a syndicated public affairs program anchored by Marvin Kalb, a former CBS-TV correspondent.

The program was taped at the National Press Club. Mr. Freedman was a board member of the organization and served as club president in 2020. He piloted the club through the first year of the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. Capitol insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, when the Press Club became a refuge for besieged journalists.

Over the years, broadcasts overseen by Mr. Freedman won dozens of awards, including 14 Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television News Digital Association. He had a special affinity for Murrow, whose broadcasts from London during World War II helped define the medium of broadcast news.

In 2020, Mr. Freedman arranged with Murrow’s family for his London microphone to be displayed at the National Press Club. Mr. Freedman called it the “holy grail of broadcast journalism” and an enduring symbol of his profession’s highest values.

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