Amy Westervelt is an award-winning investigative journalist. In 2017 she founded 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—revealing the various forces behind efforts to unravel the Indian Child Welfare Act—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. Damages, a Drilled spin-off focused on climate litigation, launched in 2021 and received the Covering Climate Now audio award in 2023. Amy was also named a Covering Climate Now Journalist of the Year in 2023.
In 2015, she 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, Inside Climate News, and other outlets earned Murrow, ONA, and Folio awards as well, and is often cited as one of the earliest examples of climate accountability reporting.
Later this month, world leaders will meet in Dubai for the annual UN climate summit, known as the Conference of the Parties or COP, to discuss what they’re willing to do to confront the climate crisis. This year’s COP president is also the CEO of the host country’s national oil company (the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, or Adnoc), which has a lot of people feeling pretty defeated. When I’m feeling that way, I look for podcasts that either make me feel angry and fired up to take on the powers that be, or help me check out of the outrage machine for a while and remember what it is we’re fighting for. These are some of my faves!
Co-hosted by legendary climate diplomat Christiana Figueres, Carbon Disclosure Project founder Paul Dickinson, and political strategist and Global Optimism co-founder (with Figueres) Tom Rivett-Carnac, this show delivers exactly what its title promises, justifiable outrage over all the nefarious ways climate action has been halted, and optimism that we will eventually tackle the problem.
Recommended episode: How to talk about climate change so people will listen
Part investigation, part memoir, this is a gripping story that just grabs you at ep 1 and pulls you in. Its creative format and host Yohance Lacour’s mix of more formal interviews and more casual conversations got me excited about experimenting in audio again, too.
Recommended episode: Young Black Male
Even before I got the great pleasure of working on Season 5, “The Repair,” which traces the roots of the climate crisis all the way back to before the Crusades, I was a massive fan of this show. Incredibly well-researched, the show does a masterful job of excavating the roots of today’s most pressing problems, from systemic racism to patriarchy and beyond.
Recommended episode: In the Beginning
As an investigative journalist, I often think of my job as basically professional gossip – I get people to tell me things they aren’t supposed to and then I share the story with everyone. I love Normal Gossip because it’s a total escape, a story with twists and turns I never see coming, low stakes, and a totally satisfying ending.
Recommended episode: Grandma’s ‘Best Friend’ Dot with Danielle Henderson
These guys are even more obsessed with the bad guys of history than I am, and I love it. I particularly appreciated their series on the history of fascists and anti-fascists in Europe and what worked historically to beat back fascism… NO REASON.
Recommended episode: Part One: The Clarence Thomas Story
One of the all-time best climate podcasts. Host Vann Newkirk takes us back to 2005 New Orleans, and walks us through the days before and after Hurricane Katrina, from the way the media portrayed hurricane victims to the racist “militia” groups policing the city’s streets, to the utter failure of the government in the wake of the crisis.
Recommended episode: Antediluvian
I’m so bummed this show wound up on WNYC’s chopping block earlier this year. It’s hard to think of a more important, useful show than a deep dive on the Supreme Court and the big cases that had major impacts on Americans’ lives. Super glad the back catalog lives on, at least!
Recommended episode: Not Even Past: Dred Scott Reprise
Another immersive storytelling podcast that’s great on those days when I feel like escaping. People reach out to host Jonathan Goldstein for help with all sorts of things, from tracking down a missed love connection to delivering a long-overdue apology to lifting an ancient family curse, and he brings listeners along as he attempts, and often succeeds, to solve their problems.
Recommended episode: The Elliots
I had the great privilege of working with this show on its second season, but even without that bias I’d recommend it–super compelling narratives connected to the ongoing struggle for Indigenous sovereignty in the U.S., created and hosted by award-winning Cherokee reporter Rebecca Nagle.
Recommended episode: Solomon’s Sword
Every season of NPR’s original documentary podcast blows me away – including the most recent one, featuring the Love Commandos, a voluntary non-profit organization in India that helps to protect couples in love from harassment and honor killing.
Recommended episode: Love Commandos: The Vow