Three Questions for Sam Freedman ’77

Sam Freedman headshot

Name: Sam Freedman

Title and Organization: Author of 10 books; Professor at Columbia Journalism School

Graduation Year and Degree: 1977, B.A.s in Journalism and History

Center for Journalism Ethics advisory board member and J-School alum Sam Freedman is an award-winning author and professor at the Columbia University Journalism School. His latest book, “Into the Bright Sunshine,” explores the work of Hubert Humphrey, civil rights and the 1948 Democratic Convention. Freedman will be returning to Madison in two weeks to discuss his new book with J-School associate professor Kathryn McGarr and sign copies for attendees. Prior to his arrival on campus, Freedman shared his proudest career accomplishments and a fond, pizza-filled Daily Cardinal memory.

When it comes to your new book and professional accomplishments, what are you most proud of?

I’m immensely proud of having had 108 students from my book-writing class at Columbia Journalism School get contracts for books they began in my course. About 90 of those books have already been published, including two that should be very dear to UW and Wisconsin folk – “The Whole Damn Deal” by UW professor Kathryn McGarr and “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” by the longtime Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Dan Egan.

In terms of my own books, I’m most proud of having stuck to my vision of what I wanted to write about – primarily the political and social issues that grip me – no matter what the commercial risks.

What’s the best advice you have for a J-School student who wants to do what you do?

Follow your muse and your passion. Steep yourself in the fine and performing arts and great fiction as well as, of course, the highest-quality journalistic writing. Try and fail and try again.

What is your favorite J-School memory?

In terms of J-School courses, my favorite was Mary Ann Yodelis’s class in Law of Mass Communication. It was so informative and valuable and so brilliantly taught.

I also had wild, instructive and sometimes bruising times at the Daily Cardinal, which was a very intense place amid the political turmoil of the mid-70s. The most fun experience was serving as “Pizza Commissioner” for the Cardinal’s annual best pizza content, which is a pretty big deal for the pizzerias in Madison and the occasion for a very gluttonous and drunken night for the Cardinal staff.