CEO & 

Jennifer Brandel began her career in journalism in the early 2000s, reporting for outlets including WBEZ, NPR, APM, PRI, CBC, Radiotopia, The New York Times and Vice, picking up awards along the way. In 2011 she founded the groundbreaking audience-first series, Curious City at WBEZ in Chicago and now with Hearken, is spreading and broadening the model to other media outlets around the world. Hearken was awarded a spot in's accelerator and took home the prize for "Best Bootstrap Company" at SXSW 2016. Brandel was awarded the 2016 Media Changemaker Prize from the Center for Collaborative Journalism. 

She’s a dog person.

CTO & 

Corey Haines is a developer, author, speaker, teacher and all around groovy guy. With nearly twenty years of software and product development, he brings a fine-tuned eye to the craft of software development. He co-created and led the evolution of the coderetreat workshop, including the creation of the annual Global Day of Coderetreat. He recently published the book "Understanding the 4 Rules of Simple Design" and is currently working on a new title, Exploring the Lambda Calculus. Outside of working on Hearken, Corey enjoys walking obscene amounts of steps on a daily basis.

He’s very much a cat person.


Sam Withrow has been working all up and down the stack on web applications, services, and ops / infrastructure for two decades. He is an experimental guitarist/composer and loves trains.  

He's very much an animal miniatures person.


Duncan Malashock is an engineering and design generalist, who comes to Hearken following a history of freelance engagements with clients ranging from artists and makers to startups and design studios. His heart is warmed by jazz theory, type design, and vintage synthesizers.

He is also a cat person.



Remy Schwartz joins Hearken from Livestream, a video tech startup, and work with many small brands and organizations producing strategic video content. He’s loves cracking jokes, making videos, and riding bicycles.

He is also a dog person.


Ellen Mayer became an early Hearken convert when she interned and reported stories for WBEZ's Curious City. Now she's excited to foster a collaborative network of public powered journalists as Hearken's community manager. Previous hats include: digital outreach coordinator for social justice documentaries and producer for the music podcast Pitch.  Excited about: media diversity, One Direction, and Chicago rap.

She's a dog person, for sure!


Anna Thomas joins Hearken after being a management consultant for a big 4 firm, focusing on strategy and operations. After realizing that most free time was spent reading and expanding her critical thinking through journalism, podcasts, and an overall obsession with media, the opportunity at Hearken ended up being the perfect place to transition into a mission driven career and workplace. In her spare time you'll find her debating between listening to new vs. old school hip hop tracks, cooking / complicating meals, playing the piano, and checking out the latest TV "must see" series (while beating herself up about the fact that she STILL hasn't finished The Wire). 

She is most definitely a dog person, but has yet to be responsible for one yet.

Community Manager

Julia Haslanger comes to Hearken with ink-stained hands. She's worked recently as an audience engagement editor at The Wall Street Journal, and as a web producer and page designer at Politico. She earned her master's degree in Social Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. On weekends, you'll find her watching Packers football and baking something delicious.

She is also a cat person (her cat's hashtag is #PicaTheCat).




Summer is a recent graduate from the University of Chicago, where she studied sociology and linguistics and wrote her senior thesis about people of color in public radio. She is a Chicagoland native, the oldest of four girls, and a podcast producer who spends her free time watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

She is decidedly a dog person: Shiba Inus over everything.



Hearken is supported by The New Enterprise Fund for StoryMakers from AIR, the Wyncote Foundation, the Ford Foundation, WBEZ Chicago (Hearken's "anchor station") and Matter. Hearken is also being funded by New Media Ventures.

Hearken's roots began with WBEZ's Curious City, which Hearken Co-founder and CEO Jennifer Brandel founded as part of AIR's innovative Localore initiative in 2012.  Curious City was made possible by AIRWBEZ Chicago and with seed funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for Curious City came from The Knight Foundation, The McCormick Foundation, and the Doris and Howard Conant Fund for Journalism. (Huge thanks go out to Torey Malatia for believing that the public had the right to play a role in journalism beyond consuming it, or having it happen to them. And for giving Brandel the opportunity to test her thesis at WBEZ.)

Hearken is part of Learn more about the accelerator program and the companies in their portfolio.

Hearken is represented by the "there's no such thing as a dumb question" counsel of Darren Green