As children, we’re told not to be tattletales. But, what if you could expose a secret that could save the environment – and potentially thousands of lives? What if it meant losing your job, your friends and your privacy?

Over the years, whistleblowers have risked it all to uncover some of the biggest environmental scandals of our time.

The West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism will host a moderated panel discussion, “Whistleblowing and the Environment: From Climate Change to the Gulf Oil Spill” on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. in room G15 of the Life Sciences Building.

Panelists will include: Rick Plitz, a former senior associate in the office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program who blew the whistle in 2005 on the White House’s censorship of science program reports on global warming; Jack Spadaro, former head of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy who blew the whistle on a federal agency’s attempt to whitewash an investigation into a major spill of coal slurry from a Massey Energy coal waste site in Kentucky; and Wilma Subra, a Louisiana scientist who blew the whistle on misleading statements by the Food and Drug Administration that the seafood being harvested in the Gulf of Mexico was safe to consume after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

School of Journalism Assistant Professor Alison Bass, an award-winning journalist and critically acclaimed author, will moderate the panel. Her book, “Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whisteblower and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial,” won the National Association of Science Writers’ Science in Society Award in 2009.

Because environmental issues are a big concern on college campuses, Bass believes the panel discussion will be an excellent learning experience for WVU students who are majoring in many different disciplines, from journalism and public relations to business and natural resources.

“This is a great opportunity not only for students who want to understand the significant role that whistleblowers play in helping journalists expose wrongdoing and problems in the environment,” Bass said. “But the discussion will also be useful for any student who plans to work for a governmental agency or company that has to deal with the kind of problems that may give rise to environmental whistleblowing.”

The panel discussion will be preceded by a movie screening of “Erin Brockovich” on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in 205 Martin Hall. The real-life drama features Julia Roberts, who plays an unemployed single mother who almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.

The event is co-sponsored by the School of Journalism, the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences’ departments of political science and geology and geography, the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, and the Governmental Accountability Project.

This event is being produced in conjunction with the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization. The event is one of several stops in the Governmental Accountability Project’s acclaimed program, the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing.



CONTACT: Kimberly Walker, School of Journalism

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