He began as a journalist on local papers in 1951, initially on The Luton News for which he was reporting in 1957 when he was the only journalist present when prime minister Harold Macmillan made his famous declaration that Britons had "never had it so good". Later he was on the staff of the Daily Sketch for a year before turning freelance in 1961. His broadcasting career began in the following year, and he wrote for The Sunday Telegraph, The Spectator, The Guardian, The Observer and The Economist.
As a biographer, he specialised in Hollywood and its entertainers, plus some prominent British subjects. His book on Al Jolson, originally published in 1971, reached its eighth edition in 2007. Freedland wrote over forty books, mainly biographies. He wrote and presented programmes for Radio 2 in the UK on his subjects, including Elvis Presley, Bob Hope and Judy Garland. Asked about what to include in an individual's life history, the immediate concern was the Garland book, he said in 2010: "I am a great believer in telling it as it was. I am very certain of the need for warts and all. How else can you tell a full rounded story?"
Freedland's books included more general histories. Witch Hunt in Hollywood: McCarthyism's War On Tinseltown is an account of the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy and (the not directly connected) House Un-American Activities Committee. In Freedland's view: "For Communist read Jew. The hearings ... were as much (some would say more) antisemitic as anti-Communist. Hollywood was chosen for the attack because of the great publicity value the movie capital offered. It was also a great opportunity to get at the Jews of Hollywood."
Freedland was Jewish. His radio show, You Don't Have To Be Jewish, began in 1971, and was gradually extended in length. Initially broadcast by BBC Radio London, and later by LBC, it ran for 24 years.
Ben Helfgott: The Story of One of the Boys (2018) was the first of his books to relate to the Holocaust in some way. Helfgott, a weightlifter who competed for Britain in the Melbourne and Rome Olympics, was a survivor of the Buchenwald and Theresienstadt concentration camps.
He was married for 52 years to Sara Hocherman, who died in 2012. One of the couple's daughters, Fiona, was a solicitor specialising in medical negligence claims Their middle child, daughter Dani, worked as a successful charity fundraiser. while their son is the journalist and thriller writer Jonathan Freedland. Like his son, Michael Freedland was a regular contributor to The Jewish Chronicle. His Confessions of a Serial Biographer, an autobiography, appeared in 2005.
- Journalist Michael Freedland, 83, dies 'doing what he loved'
- "Michael Freedland, Esq", Debrett's
- Freedland, Jonathan (6 October 2018). "My dad showed me how to be a journalist, a Jew and a man". The Guardian. London. p. 1-2. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
- Freedland, Jonathan (3 May 2018). "A lifetime of life writing". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
- Michael Freedland "You ain't heard nothing' yet: How one sentence uttered by Al Jolson changed the movie industry", The Independent, 28 September 2007
- Michael Freedland "I knew Elvis", The Guardian, 29 December 2009
- The Bob Hope Trial, BBC Radio 2, February–March 2008
- The Judy Garland Trail, BBC Radio 2, October–November 2008
- "Interview with Michael Freedland, author of new Garland biography", judygarlandnews.com, 18 December 2010
- Michael Freedland "Hunting communists? They were really after Jews", The Jewish Chronicle, 6 August 2009
- Gerald Isaaman "McCarthy’s bad guy role in a dark Hollywood drama", Camden New Journal, 20 August 2009 See also Joel Finler's letter "McCarthy’s witch-hunt", Camden New Journal, 1 October 2009
- Levy, Elkan (2013). The Jewish year book. 5773-5774. London Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell. p. 331. ISBN 9780853039051.
- "You Don’t Have to Be Jewish", Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA.com), 9 November 1976
- Michael Freedland "On the air with Topol and Golda", The Jewish Chronicle, 6 June 2012
- Michael Freedland "Anything but scrambled eggs: how I learned to cook at 78", The Guardian, 12 April 2013
- Jonathan Freedland "Sara's Gift", The Guardian, 12 February 2005 (extract from Jacob's Gift)
- Sandy Rashty "Death of ex- JC junior page editor", The Jewish Chronicle, 12 May 2010
- Robin Oppenheim "Fiona Freedland obituary", theguardian.com, 2 September 2014
- Jonathan Freedland "In death – as in life – my mother was rescued by love", The Guardian, 18 May 2012