Our Team



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 Matter.vc'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.



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.

Kevin Davis
Acting head of sales

Kevin Davis has spent more than 20 years leading operations and revenue generation for several entertainment and news media companies, including Variety, The Wrap and Hollywood.com. Most recently, Kevin was the inaugural Executive Director and CEO of INN, the Institute for Nonprofit News (formerly the Investigative News Network). In addition to his work for Hearken, Kevin is the founder and CEO of KLJD Consulting and is a guest lecturer at the Stockholm School of Economics – Riga where he teaches marketing and business strategy to media managers and journalists from all over Europe.



Ellen started her career in public radio, first at WNYC's Studio 360 and then at WBEZ's Curious City, where she became an early convert to Hearken's public-powered model. She joined Hearken in 2015, as the company's first Engagement Consultant. In past lives she has worked in non-profit development and social impact documentary film. Ellen is also a writer, occasional podcaster, and recovering music journalist. Excited about: local news, civic tech, and pop music. 

Ellen really really loves dogs.


Summer is a recent graduate from the University of Chicago, where she wrote her sociology thesis on the opinions of radio producers of color on diversifying public media. She's a Chicagoland native (South Suburbs represent), the oldest of four girls, and a podcast producer who idolizes Larry David.

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



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).


Janine Anderson
Engagement Consultant

Janine Anderson built a career out of community journalism, at small weeklies, mid-size dailies and hyperlocal websites. She encountered Hearken's public-powered journalism model at a conference in December 2013, and fell in love. 

She loves journalism that helps build community through a better understanding of the people within it and the stories they have to share, like this gem from a past life

Janine grew up in small-town Wisconsin but is decidedly a city girl. When she's not writing (or reading), she's knitting, dancing or helping her favorite local theater company.

She is on team cat, though her life is pet free.


Director of Business Development

Anna Thomas joins Hearken after being a management consultant for a big 4 firm, focusing on strategy and operations. After realizing that almost all of her free time was spent obsessing over journalism and the media in general, 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, cooking, reading, traveling, playing the piano, and trying to check out the latest TV "must see" series. 

She is most definitely a dog person.


Sales Coordinator

Alex started her career in the world of non-profits and community organizing. She eventually made her way to Yelp where she helped small business owners learn the ins and outs of online marketing. After, she started her a personal development company before joining Hearken in 2017. 

You can find her obsessing over yoga, bacon, and the color yellow.  

Choosing between cats and dogs causes an existential crisis, so she’s team cat/dog.



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 came 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.


Stephanie Snyder
Engagement consultant

Stephanie’s career in local journalism has spanned newsrooms ranging from for-profit and nonprofit startups to traditional daily newspapers, where she gradually shifted from multimedia reporting to a focus on audience development and community engagement through public-powered journalism, events, social media and connecting with readers.

Like a quickly-growing number of people, she is an enthusiastic Denver transplant (mountains! breweries! erratic weather!) after working as a journalist in New York City, Southern California, Washington, D.C., and her hometown — Phoenix. 

Stephanie loves both cats and dogs, but she’ll only make this face for the latter. 

Hearken got its start with support from The New Enterprise Fund for StoryMakers from AIRWBEZ Chicago and Matter. Hearken is also 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 FoundationThe 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 Matter.vc. 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