Jon Palfreman, KEZI Endowed Professor for the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) at the University of Oregon, has announced his retirement. He will work through the month of June. Palfreman dedicated nine years to teaching journalism at the SOJC, in addition to continuing his work as an investigative reporter.
A veteran of both U.K. and U.S. television, Palfreman has made more than 40 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and PBS one-hour documentaries including the Peabody Award-winning series “The Machine That Changed the World,” the Emmy Award-winning NOVA show titled “Siamese Twins” and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton-winner “Harvest of Fear.”
Palfreman has received numerous awards honoring the quality and accuracy of his reporting. The recipient of the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing, Palfreman is three-time winner of the science writing prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, three-time winner of the National Association of Science Writers “Science-in-Society” Journalism Award, and a winner of the Writers Guild Award for best script. Palfreman was also a 2006 Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University.
Since joining the SOJC in September 2006, Palfreman has produced several prime-time documentaries, including:
- “The Vaccine War” (WGBH, Boston) a two-part series about the science and politics of vaccines.
- “Nuclear Aftershocks” (WGBH, Boston) about the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and its consequences for the future of nuclear energy.
- “Striking Gold: renegade genius” (Oregon Public Broadcasting) about the scientific maverick Tommy Gold.
- “Sick Around America” and “Sick Around the World” (WGBH, Boston), investigations of both U.S. and global health care financing.
In addition to writing numerous articles, he has authored three books, including a second edition of The Case of the Frozen Addicts: How the solution of an extraordinary medical mystery spawns a revolution in the understanding and treatment of Parkinson’s disease with Dr. J. William Langston.
Palfreman has a new book due out in September entitled Brain storms: The race to unlock the mysteries of Parkinson’s disease published by Scientific American/ FSG.
During his time at the SOJC, Palfreman has taught a variety of courses including Reporting for Electronic Media, The Journalistic Interview, Mass Communication and Society, Reporting 2, Reporting Science, Advanced Documentary, and the topics course, Producing Story, where he has shared his passion for science and investigative journalism with his students.
“My favorite classes to teach are Reporting Science, where I get to work with both science and journalism students, and Reporting I, where I get to watch students grow into sophisticated interviewers.”
“Jon has been instrumental in thinking about how we teach students to tell complex stories across media,” said senior instructor and journalism area director, Mark Blaine. “He has blended innovation with a really critical eye—a powerful combination for the SOJC community in developing courses and how we move forward through an always-changing media landscape.”
Palfreman’s commitment to ethics and accuracy as an investigative reporter transcends into his teaching.
“Ethics in journalism is about reporting without fear or favor,” he explains. “It is my duty to make sure students understand the difference between advocacy and journalism.”
Palfreman’s favorite moments as a professor stem from watching his students develop a passion and commitment to success in the industry.
“Journalism is extremely hard to do,” he says. “It’s gratifying when you find a student who is willing to do the work. It’s not just about a course they are taking, but finding a story. Something they can’t wait to tell the world about.”
After his retirement, Palfreman will continue to work as a journalist. He leaves behind a legacy as a transformative professor and mentor, and a final piece of wisdom:
What is a successful journalist? In a sense, someone whose passion exceeds their fears. Finding things out can be hard and scary, but if your desire to report and tell a story is strong enough, that drive will give you the fortitude and resilience to overcome any obstacles and setbacks.
Story by Jessica Glackin ’15