Extensive update, with photos!
First, I want to apologize for this extremely overdue update. As I'll explain below, I've been scrambling to manage both this project and a series of time-sensitive developments that are directly related to this work. The drone investigations are going well (and I've included some sample photos, below), but this along with the developments below has become way too much for one person; my attempts to just do it all myself have taken a dangerous toll on my health, and clearly this is not sustainable, so I'm taking steps to bring others on board. That being said, I want to acknowledge that this focus on "getting things done" has been at the expense of keeping you all updated, and that's just not acceptable.
I do have some very good news to report from the last few months related to the Kickstarter:
- My drone investigations have been filmed for a new investigative journalism TV series, which should air early in the new year!
- Since the last update, I have filmed multiple additional farms across the United States and I'm continuing to research future locations. Filming has resulted in some heated encounters, as you can see from one photo below, but that hasn't deterred me from getting material both from the air and on the ground.
- Idaho's ag-gag law has been ruled unconstitutional! I was a plaintiff in this lawsuit from the beginning, as a journalist. These laws are what motivated me to create this Kickstarter in the first place. I'm very happy to say that the judge's ruling focused on how ag-gag laws threaten journalism. It's a landmark victory against the agriculture industry's attempts to keep consumers in the dark.
- Utah's ag-gag law is still being challenged as well. With Idaho's ruling, the writing is on the wall. I have been invited to prepare testimony as an expert witness, which I'm currently writing.
- I delivered a keynote address at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Washington, DC alongside whistleblower Edward Snowden. I was invited to speak about ag-gag laws and the criminalization of protest. This was an incredible opportunity to reach a wide new audience of policymakers.
- Greenpeace's MobLab Live featured my drone investigations, and asked me to discuss how other activists can learn from my experience with this project. You can watch the discussion here (and it includes some of my photos as well). The discussion was distributed to all of Greenpeace's offices internationally.
- I delivered the keynote address at the Michigan Animal Law Symposium, where I discussed ag-gag laws with attorneys and law students, and urged them to get involved.
- I'm currently the Knight-Wallace Fellow in Law Reporting at the University of Michigan. I'm honored to have been selected. My study at the university is how whistleblowers and journalists have been criminalized since 9/11 (with a large focus on researching ag-gag laws and how they have spread). Much of this work will also be used in the ag-gag ebook for the Kickstarter.
- I'm taking every opportunity to get this issue in the press, and spending 4-5 hours every week on interviews with both mainstream and activist media outlets. For instance, in one recent week I spoke with Radio Islam and also one of the most popular right-wing stations about the criminalization of protest. I spend hours crafting my message about these issues so that I can reach new, diverse audiences that have historically ignored these social movements. I'm happy to report that these disparate audiences have all been overwhelmingly supportive, and outraged by ag-gag.
There have also been some big developments that are not directly related to the Kickstarter, but have been a huge part of my work:
- I delivered my second TED talk this summer, and it went online in October. I'm very proud to say it already has more than 1 million views!
- As part of the grassroots publicity for that talk, I have done several dozen media interviews with national and international media outlets. I was also asked to write a follow-up article for TED, which was sent to millions of people.
- I broke the story of activists in Washington state being prosecuted for chalking slogans on the public sidewalk. Just days later—and likely due to this publicity— those charges were dismissed.
- I broke the story of activists in Utah being prosecuted for protesting on the sidewalk. Just days later—and likely due to this publicity—those charges were also dismissed.
I hope you will understand the urgency and importance of these projects, even if they are not directly related to the Kickstarter. When I get a call from activists who have been arrested, a legal team needing my help fighting ag-gag laws, or a chance to reach millions of people through a TED talk, I have to take it.
However, I'm also taking steps to make all of this more manageable. For instance, I put out a call for volunteers, and was amazed at the quality of applicants. This new team is going to be helping with research, social media, GreenIsTheNewRed.com, and more. I'm also very thankful to TED for connecting me with a coach who is volunteering her time to help me think through this workload, and how to manage it all.
This is the hardest I have ever worked, and I'm not letting up. Thank you all for your support and understanding.