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Sharon Friedman wins global honor for promoting environmental reporting

Sharon Friedman directs Lehigh's science and environmental writing program.

After a career devoted to communicating scientific, environmental, technological and health issues, Sharon Friedman is receiving an international honor for her contributions to promoting environmental journalism.

Friedman, professor and director of the science and environmental writing program in the department of journalism and communication, http://www.lehigh.edu/~injrl/ is one of five recipients to receive the 2009 International Green Pen Award from the Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ). A non-profit media organization based in Sri Lanka, the APFEJ promotes education understanding and awareness of the environment through honest and accurate reporting of local, regional and international environmental and development issues.

“It is particularly important that people in developing countries be informed about environmental conditions and problems there,” says Friedman. “Providing this information is a major task for environmental journalists. I am very pleased that the APFEJ considers me as someone who contributed to the early growth of environmental journalism in Southeast Asia.”

Friedman has long been an advocate of environmental reporting in the Asia and Pacific region. In 1987, she served as a consultant to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and coauthored the first edition of the volume Reporting on the Environment: A Handbook for Journalists with Kenneth A. Friedman, adjunct professor of journalism and communication.

The APFEJ said the book, which has been translated into 19 languages, “inspired a generation of environmental journalists across the Asia Pacific region.” 

The Friedmans also cotaught 12 environmental reporting seminars and workshops over eight years to environmental journalists in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Nepal, Indonesia, Singapore and Bangladesh.

In 1997, they conducted a science writing workshop for Malaysian journalists and consulted with The Science University of Malaysia on establishing a science writing program at the university. Sharon Friedman also gave advice on the establishment of a joint science writing program for universities in Sydney, Australia.

Friedman also hosted environmental journalists from Southeast Asia at Lehigh, including a 12-member group that spent a week on campus attending seminars on environmental science and journalism, an Indonesian journalist who spent three months studying environmental journalism teaching techniques, and, most recently, a Thai journalism professor who was investigating ways to start a science writing program at her university.

“When I began the work that led to this award, environmental information resources were scarce in the region and journalists needed training in how to write about such a complex topic,” says Friedman. “As the years progressed, I saw the journalists’ growing sophistication in handling the topic. These environmental journalists are now a force in the region and I am proud to have played a role in this development.”

Much of Friedman’s research has focused on mass media coverage of environmental and health risk issues, such as Alar, radon, dioxin and electromagnetic fields, as well as the nuclear power plant accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

Most recently, Friedman has joined with Brenda Egolf of Lehigh’s Center for Social Research in studying the news coverage of potential health and environmental risks associated with nanotechnology. Their approach is to use a time series to examine trends in reporting in U.S. newspapers and wire services as well as newspapers in the United Kingdom.

“On any given day, more than a hundred stories about environmental issues appear around the world in the mass media or on the Web,” says Friedman. “Environmental journalism is a critically important field bringing information to people about concerns such as climate change, water shortages and droughts, pollution, and environmental health.”

In addition to the award presented to Friedman, the APFEJ also honored 2009 winners Haroldo F. Castro of Brazil, Carmen Miranda of India, Natallia Sliadneva of Belarus, and Nanette Woonton of the Cook Islands.

 

Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Friday, November 06, 2009

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