The Pub #22: Curious City creator Jennifer Brandel goes national

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Satullo, Brandel

Satullo, Brandel

Back in 2012, Jennifer Brandel had the best new idea in local news that anyone has had in a long time. Rather than report the same old stories, ask the audience: What have you always been curious about? Use democratic online tools to pick the best questions, then go out and answer them as best you can.

That was Curious City, a Localore project based at WBEZ in Chicago. It has since been imitated and replicated dozens of times over.

In January, Brandel started Curious Nation, a spin-off company designed to help franchise the Curious City model to other cities. Last week, Curious Nation became Hearken, and with the new name comes a new and broader mission: to help journalists do work that better reflects the information needs and desires of their audience.

“I do believe there’s a lot of innovation yet to be explored in the very process of reporting, because we have been doing things pretty much the same way for decades,” Brandel told me on The Pub.

“This set or group of people gets to think about and decide what everyone else gets to know, and I think the more we question that setup, the more rich and varied stories we’re going to be doing that are differentiated from what everyone else is talking about.”

On this week’s episode, Brandel talks about the journey from Curious City to Hearken, and the best practices she’s learned along the way for doing audience-driven coverage.

Also this week:

  • We conclude last week’s investigation into why some national program producers are opting to self-distribute their shows
  • WHYY Vice President for News and Civic Dialogue Chris Satullo argues that stations shouldn’t just do journalism — they should support good community journalism, whoever is doing it

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at adam@current.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

Correction: An earlier version of this podcast misidentified Graham Griffith.