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The lure of the beater bike

By Eric Freedman

Beater Bike with Freedman

Eric Freedman with Nishki Beater Bike, Photo Credit Ian Freedman

I love my blue Trek road bike. It’s light and fast. It’s taken me thousands of miles over the years.

But my Trek hasn’t been out of the basement for the past two years.

I like the black Nishiki beater bike that I recently bought at the Michigan State University Surplus Store’s annual spring bike sale. It was one of the 1,200 – 1,500 abandoned bikes the Surplus Store sells each year.

I paid $95 and spent another $70 or so to replace frayed cables, adjust the derailleur, tighten the rear hub and lube the chain.

My beater bike is sturdy — maybe heavy is a more precise word. It’s got some rust and some scratches and some dings. It doesn’t shift as smoothly as I’d like. A piece of one plastic pedal is missing.

I’m using my beater bike in Colorado this summer, mostly tooling along bike paths. Because it’s a beater bike, I don’t worry much about it getting wet or muddy or hitting potholes — yes, Michigan isn’t the only state with pothole problems.

Beater Bike

Beater Bike, Photo Credit Ian Freedman

There’s been a transition in my bikes over the decades. I remember a little about the first bike that I got in about 3rd grade. It was red, and I didn’t get to use it outdoors for several months because we lived in a second-floor apartment in Boston. In truth, I didn’t know yet how to ride a two-wheeler but spent time sitting on it and looking out the window. When the weather got good enough, my father took me to a park to learn how to ride without training wheels.

As children we don’t think in terms of beater bikes. Bikes are for fun, plain and simple. Puddles are to be ridden through. Curbs are to be ridden over. Races with our friends are expected. We deliberately skid to lay rubber on the street. We deliberately slog through the mud to leave tread tracks.

We dress them up with bells and streamers on the handlebars, We stick on a basket — although maybe that’s not cool any more — and a back rack.

If it rains, it’s OK if the bike gets wet. If we stop, it’s OK to drop the bike onto the ground, even if it has a kickstand. Scrapes and dents are par for the course and nothing to fret about. We never think about lubing the chain or toweling off the rain drops or puddle spray.

I don’t remember the next successor bikes of my junior high and high school days, but when I was in college I used my father’s old one-speed Italian bike that he’d used as an amateur racer in the 1940s — until he was sidelined after a serious crash — and then as bike tourer in New England. Its single speed made it challenging for me on the hilly streets of Ithaca, New York, but it served its purpose as a beater bike, exposed to the snow and rain characteristic of the Finger Lakes region.

I still have the frame hanging in my shed, but my good intentions to restore it to working condition are no longer on the table.

When I got into serious riding and bike touring, I bought a new road bike. I loved it, but my teenage nephew irreparably bent the frame when he crashed while riding down some stairs on the Lake Superior State University campus during our multi-day bike tour of the eastern Upper Peninsula. When we returned home, I bought the blue Trek that’s now hanging in my basement.

As for the Nishiki beater bike, it’s well-appreciated, rust, dings and all.

EJ alum shoots high

Madison Hall

Madison Hall

Madison Hall, an alum of the Knight Center’s Environmental Journalism master’s program, is now ranked 11th nationally by USA Shooting for Women’s Air Pistol..

Hall competed in the USA Shooting Winter Air Gun match at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Hall, now a doctoral candidate in Fisheries & Wildlife, belongs to the MSU Shooting Sports Club.

In an interview with Outsports.com, Hall said, “While my academic goal is to complete my Ph.D. in the coming year, my competitive shooting goals remain fixed on regional, national and international air pistol shooting events, and I hope to be a role model to younger students, scientists and athletes who are trying to find their way with intelligence, compassion, strength and dignity.”

Hall’s plans include combining graduate studies and a competitive career, including a desire to compete in the Olympics.

Knight Center director studies journalists after prison

World Press Freedom DayJournalists around the world face prison for practicing their profession in ways that antagonize regimes, militaries, oligarchs and other powerful interests. What they do after their release — whether in their home country or in exile — is the topic of a new study that Knight Center director Eric Freedman recently presented at the Academic Conference on the Safety of Journalists in Jakarta, Indonesia, sponsored by UNESCO and Hong Kong Baptist University.

His paper is based on in-depth interviews with eight journalists who had been imprisoned and then returned to journalism, communications or journalism education.  Six were jailed in their home countries — Syria, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.  Two American journalists who had been imprisoned in other countries, Iran and the Soviet Union, were interviewed as well.  The study also incorporates interviews with psychologists Hawthorne Smith and Katherine Porterfield, who work with journalists through the Bellevue Hospital/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture.

While each journalist’s experience during and after prison is unique, some common themes emerged from the interviews:

  • Psychological aspects, including post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Fear
  • Not working after release
  • Self-exile
  • Being back on the job
  • Resilience
  • Continued commitment to journalism’s mission
  • Understanding the risks
  • Career changes
  • Being the news

“The findings may help press rights advocates, news organizations, professional groups and fellow journalists better assist released journalists to transition back into their careers,” Freedman said.

The study is part of his research for the past 15 years about constraints on journalism and press freedom internationally.

Interviewed were:

  • Ali Al-Ibrahim, an investigative journalist and war correspondent, was detained twice in Syria, first by the Bashir al-Assad regime in 2011 for two months and then by the Islamic State in 2013 for two months. He is now an investigative documentary filmmaker and freelancer.
  • Housam al-Mosilli, a Syrian journalist and translator, was arrested and tortured three times in 2011-2012. Now in Sweden, he writes political articles for magazines and works as a translator.
  • Shane Bauer, an American freelancer based in Damascus, was arrested in 2009 after allegedly straying across the Iranian border from Iraqi Kurdistan while on holiday. He was convicted of espionage and illegal entry and sentenced to eight years and is now a senior writer for Mother Jones magazine.
  • Dessale Berekhet, a columnist and author from Eritrea, was jailed for six months and tortured before release in 2008. He now works in Norway.
  • Nicholas Daniloff, an American, was the U.S. News & World Report magazine bureau chief in Moscow when the KGB arrested him in 1986 on suspicion of espionage. He was jailed for two weeks and then held under house arrest for 1 month. He is now a retired Northeastern University journalism professor.
  • Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative reporter and contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Azerbaijan, was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 7½ years on fabricated charges, including tax evasion and embezzlement. Authorities conditionally released her in May 2016 but barred her reporting at the time of my interview. She later resumed journalism in her country.
  • George Ngwa was editor-in-chief of Radio Cameroon when he was arrested in 1983. Authorities interrogated him for two weeks. He is now chief of the meetings coverage section of the UN News and Media Division.
  • Tesfalem Waldyes, a freelance journalist in Ethiopia, was arrested in 2014, charged with terrorism and freed in 2015. He now works for Deutsche Welle in Germany

The academic conference was part of UNESCO’s annual World Press Freedom Day conference, “Critical Issues for Critical Times: Media’s Role in Advancing Peaceful Just and Inclusive Societies.”

 

Poulson recognized for service-learning, civic engagement

Knight Center Senior Associate Director David Poulson with colleagues Amol Pavangadkar, far left, and Joe Grimm, far right, and College of Communication Arts and Sciences Dean Prabu David and School of Journalism Director Lucinda Davenport.

Knight Center Senior Associate Director David Poulson with colleagues Amol Pavangadkar, far left, and Joe Grimm, far right, and College of Communication Arts and Sciences Dean Prabu David and School of Journalism Director Lucinda Davenport.

The Knight Center’s senior associate director was recently recognized by Michigan State University for efforts that promote civic engagement and service learning.

The university cited David Poulson for integrating public service news reporting into classroom teaching and for his work teaching scientists to communicate their research directly to the public.

Poulson, a 1982 graduate of MSU’s School of Journalism, was a journalist for 22 years before returning to the university to teach in 2003. He has created three environment-related news services that are used as teaching platforms, but also enable students, faculty and professional journalists to report environmental news in multi-media venues.

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