The Freeflow Podcast

a media project of Freeflow Institute


Heather Hansman: On community in journalism, her path as a writer, and describing rivers


Heather Hansman literally wrote the book on the Green River. Two years ago, Heather finished an account of her solo source-to-confluence descent of the Green, from its headwaters in the high mountains of Wyoming to its confluence with the Colorado. Her book, entitled DownriverInto the Future of Water in the West (University of Chicago Press, 2019), is the artful product of adventure, inquiry, and super solid reporting.

The Green is the most significant tributary to the Colorado. It runs across the Western landscape through national parks, cities, farmlands, habitats for endangered species, and, incidentally, some of the largest natural gas fields in the US. 33 million people are dependent upon the water it supplies. The Green is hardly pristine, through, as it’s been dammed and diverted for irrigation and sucked dry by urban centers. As Heather notes, “the Green is crucial, overused, and at risk, now more than ever.”

This June, Heather will lead a Freeflow course called the Green River Field Institute. Participants will have the opportunity to learn from an expert in the realm of reporting and truth-telling while exploring a stunningly beautiful section of a critically important Western river.

Today on the Podcast we feature a quick discussion that Freeflow director Chandra Brown had with Heather in early March. They talk about Heather’s relationship with rivers; the role of personal experience in the telling of big, universal stories; the art of mining truth from the darkness surrounding social justice and ecological issues; the importance of community in journalism; and systems for finding and prioritizing projects. 


Freeflow Institute’s Green River Field Institute

June 12 – 18, 2021

A seven-day journalistic exploration of the Green River’s Desolation Canyon, focused on inquiry, truth-telling, and resonance in the realm of Western water resources.

with Heather Hansman / / LEARN MORE


Our theme music is by Nate Heygi and Wartime Blues.

The Freeflow Podcast is made possible by generous contributions from The Prop Foundation and the Montana Arts Council.

Rick White is a writer and producer of The Freeflow Podcast. His work has been published in The A.V. ClubHigh Desert JournalWestword, and Camas, and was recently nominated for Best American Essays. He likes stories that are rich in mischief, especially the misadventures of lovable losers on impossible quests. 

Stephanie Maltarich, a producer at The Freeflow Podcast,is an independent audio producer based in Gunnison, Colorado. She’s reported and produced radio stories for NPR, Colorado Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio. She’s contributed to the Out There Podcast and written scripts for Duolingo’s language learning podcast. She discovered her love for audio storytelling while completing a Master’s degree at the University of Montana. 

The Freeflow Podcast is made with love in Montana, near the storied Blackfoot River.

Arlo, on the banks of the Blackfoot, during the summer months when weathered sticks, sunshine, and warm, flat rocks define his days.

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