David Freed: Novelist, Pulitzer Prize-winner and CSU professor

Nate Day

a man sits behind a desk, smiling
David Freed in his office.

“All good stories start with characters,” said David Freed, an adjunct professor in the journalism and media communications department here at CSU; it’s a rule that Freed seemingly applies to his writing as well as his own life. 

After coming to CSU in 1972 to get as far away from home as possible while remaining in the state, Freed studied biomedical sciences, with the goal of becoming a doctor. After his first quarter, he reconsidered.


“I had an English teacher that told me I was apt for writing,” Freed said. “Then after my first quarter, my GPA was in the tank. Then it was like a light went off in my head.”

Freed altered his trajectory and began studying journalism, a decision he partly attributes to his fascination with the Watergate scandal, which had just been made public.

Eventually, Freed started writing for The Rocky Mountain Collegian where he often reported on Fort Collins City Council meetings, an assignment that he didn’t find terribly exciting.

Freed said his major change was a good idea. After graduating, he wrote for major newspapers, magazines and Hollywood studios. His writing also led to him and his team at the Los Angeles Times bagging a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the Rodney King riots in 1992.

Despite the illustrious career, Freed manages to stay humble by remembering the work of his peers. 

“I didn’t anticipate the award at all,” Freed said. “We work in a field where so many journalists’ best work is never recognized, and they are fine journalists.”

Freed’s career brought him to many publications including the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic and Smithsonian Air and Space, where he still writes about his other passion: aviation.

In addition, Freed has reported on Desert Storm, worked for the FX network and written five fiction novels. “The Kill Circle,” the sixth novel in Freed’s mystery series, will be released on October 31.

His experience in conjunction with his accolades made him a viable candidate to join the team of journalism instructors at CSU. 

Greg Luft, head of the Journalism and Media Communications Department at CSU, said Freed teaches to share the wisdom he gained through years of success in the industry. 


“He teaches because he wants to put students in a position to gain the same kind of success that he encountered,” Luft said. “In the classroom, he considers himself successful only if his students make significant progress.”

It’s not just his colleagues he impresses but his students as well.

“David challenged me to step beyond my comfort zone, especially with interviews and research,” said Dixie Crowe, a graduate student in the Natural Resources Department. “I actually hear his voice in my head saying ‘says who?’ when I’m reading.”

Freed taught Crowe’s course on specialized magazine writing, which resulted in her being published in Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Magazine in 2014.

Not only is Freed a decorated journalist with the respect and admiration of his peers, but he’s loved by his students for his aptitude for fun as well.

“I enjoy working with David because he is just so much fun to be around,” said Forrest Czarnecki, a second year student in the journalism program. “He’s the kind of guy that you want to spend more time with. You want to have a conversation with him. And it’s very easy to do that.”

Collegian reporter Nate Day can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @NateMDay