Episode for September 7, 2023

Episode 917 Award Winning Journalist and host of “Drilled” Amy Westervelt on Season 10 “The Real Free Speech Threat”

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Amy Westervelt is an award-winning investigative journalist and executive producer of the independent podcast production company Critical Frequency, which specializes in reported narrative podcasts. In 2020 she was executive producer of Unfinished: Short Creek, a co-production between Critical Frequency and Stitcher that was named one of the best podcasts of the year by The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and received a Wilbur award for excellence in religion reporting. In 2021, she led the reporting and production teams of This Land S2—an investigative, narrative season revealing the various forces behind efforts to unravel tribal sovereignty in the U.S.—which was nominated in April 2022 for a Peabody Award. Her investigative climate podcast Drilled, a Critical Frequency original production, was awarded the Online News Association award for excellence in audio journalism in 2019 and Covering Climate Now’s award for excellence in audio journalism in 2021. In 2015, Amy received a Rachel Carson award for women greening journalism, for her role in creating a women-only climate journalism group syndicating longform climate reporting to The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Economist, and many more outlets. A 20-year veteran investigative journalist, Westervelt’s earlier work for NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Inside Climate News, and various other outlets earned her Edward R. Murrow, ONA, and Folio awards as well, and is often cited as amongst the earliest examples of accountability reporting on climate.


Around the world, climate and other environmental protestors are being harassed, attacked, and arrested at an increasing rate. Laws are being passed that levy life-altering prison sentences and fines on protestors arrested near anything deemed “critical infrastructure,” which is defined so broadly it’s hard to find a public space that wouldn’t be near it anymore. Corporations are suing protestors and NGOs, comparing protest to organized crime. Governments are growing increasingly comfortable branding environmental protestors as “domestic terrorists” or instruments of “foreign influence,” and going after the nonprofit status of environmental nonprofits. And so far the media is largely participating in the rhetorical “othering” of protestors, opting in most cases to focus on the disruption that protest causes rather than the change it seeks, and to marginalize activists. In this print and audio series we’ll take an in-depth look at how climate protest has evolved in recent years, where this backlash is coming from, how it’s grown so quickly, and what it feels like to be someone who’s concerned enough about the future of humanity to join a protest, only to find themselves facing police violence and several years in jail.

We’ve worked with reporters on almost every continent to cover this trend from as many angles as possible and trace how particular tactics and ideas have spread across borders. The result is more than two dozen print and audio stories that we’ll be releasing over the next several months.

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