The people vs. fake news

United States (Chicago)

“I spend the bulk of my waking life thinking about the news industry and audience engagement. And there’s a particularly knotty issue I’ve been trying to unravel, put into words and expose.” – Jennifer Brandel

Journalism’s survival is vital to a healthy functioning democracy. The disruption of traditional news funding models – along with the advent of fake news – means we must find innovative ways to hold our public officials and organisations to account. We may just have found it in Hearken – a people-powered journalism model for the digital age that treats people as citizens and partners, not consumers.

Faced with a crisis in journalism, Hearken was founded by Jennifer Brandel in 2015 on the belief that a fundamental mindset shift is required inside newsrooms. The approach is centred around the idea of ‘people-powered journalism’ – a pioneering model that places readers, their concerns and their curiosity at the heart of content creation. This, in turn, empowers journalists to spend their time on the kind of work that they know is in demand from their readers. 

“We help newsrooms and content creators of all kinds shift their processes and practices to work for the information age,” the co-founder and CEO explains. “This transition is not about technology, it’s about fundamentally evolving how newsrooms think and behave – from the boardroom to the editorial table.”

Hearken works with newsrooms across the world to implement processes for information flow between audiences and journalists. These are based on transparency, responsiveness and accountability. 

Jennifer is driven by a rock solid belief in the power of engaging audiences from the very start of the storytelling process, rather than seeing engagement as the eventual product of storytelling. Coming from a journalism background (NPR, CBC, WBEZ, The New York Times and Vice), she is also the co-founder of Zebras Unite, which is a movement creating a more diverse and inclusive alternative to the current startup and venture capital culture. 

Hearken are on a mission to put audiences at the heart of newsrooms across the world. With a new team now established in Europe, you can expect this powerful model for engagement to improve the quality and relevance of your news to improve very soon. 

AtlasAction: Check out Hearken’s Engagement Innovation Summit in New York.

AtlasAgenda: Hearken features in AtlasChart: 15 rebels with a cause. CEO and founder Jennifer Brandel will be speaking at Meaning Conference 2019.

Written by

Louise Ash, Event DIrector, The Meaning People (02 October 2019)


Accidental ethical business geek Louise Ash is the organiser of Meaning Conference – a way of sharing stories about what happens when business is brave enough to think differently.

Project leader

Jennifer Brandel, Co-founder and CEO

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Hearken’s Engagement Innovation Summit, New York

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