Will Potter

Will Potter was on a traditional career path reporting for the Chicago Tribune when FBI agents came to his home and threatened to put him on a domestic terrorist list for distributing leaflets. That experience was the start of an obsession with understanding how governments silence free speech and dissent.

Today, Will is an award-winning author and internationally-recognized civil liberties advocate. He is best known for his work challenging government repression and the labeling of protest as “terrorism.” Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald described him as “the most knowledgeable journalist in the country on these issues.” After being awarded the prestigious Knight Wallace Fellowship, Will was recently appointed the Marsh Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan, where he teaches courses on investigative journalism, social movements, and whistleblowing.

His writing and opinions have appeared in the world’s top media outlets, including The Washington Post, CNN, National Geographic, Le Monde, The Sydney Morning Herald, VICE, and Rolling Stone. His book, Green Is The New Red, exposed how non-violent animal rights and environmental protesters became classified by the FBI as “eco-terrorists.” It has been translated into Spanish, French, Serbian, and Italian, and was awarded a Kirkus Star for “remarkable merit.” Counter-Terrorism Unit surveillance documents described it as “compelling and well-written.”

Will’s reporting has overturned criminal prosecutions, and has been favorably cited in Congressional reports and Supreme Court briefs. He was invited to testify before the U.S. Congress as the only witness opposing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, he has spoken about his analysis of censorship laws before the Australian Parliament, and has addressed the Council of Europe and European Union about the rise of authoritarianism. Will was also a plaintiff in a historic lawsuit that resulted in Idaho’s “ag-gag” law being struck down as unconstitutional.

PBS said “Will Potter goes where no other investigative journalist has gone,” and that applies to both his research and his advocacy of civil liberties. He was the first journalist to be selected as a TED Senior Fellow, and his TED talks have now been viewed nearly 4 million times. He has lectured at more than 200 universities and forums around the world, including Harvard Law School, Yale University, and the House of Democracy and Human Rights in Berlin.

Whether he’s appearing on conservative talk shows or punk records with the band Rise Against, Will’s message is that the best way to combat repression and fear is through education and sunlight.

In his spare time, he’s a certified mechanic and restores vintage motorcycles.