What do you wonder about Chicago, the region and its people? Pose your question to Curious City and we’ll track down answers together, with stories online, in a weekly podcast, and on WBEZ 91.5 FM. Follow what we do — and learn how you can help investigate — on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter and Tumblr.
The staff at Curious City are here to inspire and satisfy your curiosity about the Chicago region. They are:
Logan Jaffe is Curious City's multimedia producer, which means she's responsible for the project's online content and digital doodads, as well as reporting the occasional radio story. If you hear a Curious City episode with the word "heck" "dang" or "Florida" in it, know that she is somehow to blame.
Logan co-produced the independent web documentary Battle Flag, which landed spots in the Atlantic, The Guardian and The Washington Post, and became a history nerd in the process. On most days, you can find her zoomed really close into some really old map or far down the rabbit hole of the internet's most random archives.
She made her way to Chicago from Miami as Curious City's first intern after graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in photojournalism. Since then, she's biked the entirety of the Illinois and Michigan Canal trail, adopted a Chicago street cat, and has accidentally acquired a slight Midwestern accent.
Jesse Dukes works with reporters to write, record, edit, and mix the radio and podcast versions of Curious City stories. This means he spends a lot of time thinking about which Booker T., Steelism, or Alexandre Desplat tune would be perfect for a particular transition in the audio story. He sometimes leaves the edit booth to report stories for the project.
Jesse’s from Virginia, and also lived several years in Maine, and a spell on the West Coast. He studied anthropology and history at the University of Virginia, and radio documentary at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into radio, he led canoeing, hiking, and kayaking trips in Maine, and did a little substitute teaching and bookkeeping to make ends meet.
When not at Navy Pier, Jesse goes on trail runs, cross country skis, climbs up rock walls, and crudely builds furniture – ideally with salvaged materials. He is constantly on the lookout for “neutral and propellant” instrumental music for use in radio stories.
Shawn Allee edits whatever the minds of Curious City producers, reporters other contributors might dream up. When he’s not telling farm-related stories about his youth in Iowa, his favorite thing to say is: “Follow your heart, then get an edit.”
His own radio work landed him on NPR’s On The Media, All Things Considered, This American Life, Marketplace and other public radio outlets. With help from editors too numerous to mention, Shawn’s investigations earned him top honors from the Illinois Associated Press, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and the Radio Television Digital News Association.
He earned a B.A. in anthropology and comparative religion from Cornell College, Iowa, as well as master’s degrees from The University of Chicago’s Divinity School and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He regrets nothing.
Shawn digs taking photographs, especially of his wife, his cats and his Chicago neighborhood. They will, however, be kept off the Internet. That is, until the time is just right.
John Fecile is Curious City’s intern. He helps report, edit, and produce stories. You might have heard his piece about Chicago’s Mold-a-Rama machines on the air – and if you have no idea what a Mold-a-Rama is, then you are truly missing out.
John is also a filmmaker and writer. You might see him around town holding up a boom mic on a documentary shoot. Recently he served as a field producer on Al Jazeera America’s documentary miniseries Hard Earned, winner of a 2015 duPont-Columbia University Award. View his work at twentyminutesintothefuture.com.
John spends 90% of his spare time trying to find his cell phone. The other 10% is divided up between annoying his girlfriend and being annoyed by his cat. He hails from the same small town near Philadelphia that gave the world Bam Margera.
Curious City is supported by the McCormick Foundation and the Doris and Howard Conant Fund for Journalism.
Curious City was created in 2012 by Jennifer Brandel as part of Localore, a national initiative produced by AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, Incorporated. Financial support came from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Wyncote Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Knight Foundation.
How do you collect questions?
We collect questions through this website (top of the page!), through messages left at our toll-free number (1-888-789-7752), or when we’re pounding the pavement in the city and surrounding area.
Are there questions you do not accept?
All questions asked make it to the question archive unless they don’t meet the website’s guidelines for decorum, fairness or obvious conflicts of interest. We do not investigate questions about WBEZ or posed by staff at WBEZ or its parent organization, Chicago Public Media.
How do you pick the questions for voting rounds?
WBEZ producers and editors identify questions that have potential to be answered by staff, freelancers, or
volunteers. Often, Curious City staff will look for a theme (e.g., “history”) and fill the voting round with questions
related to the theme. Editors and producers also consider regional diversity, tone, or timeliness. Sometimes
we will deliberately create voting rounds with no obvious theme, so we can gauge the public’s interest in
Well first off, congratulations! We typically keep votes open for anywhere from a week to two weeks, a range that
allows us to juggle schedules for reporters, producers and show hosts. We notify question submitters of how long
the round will last so they can ask friends, family and social networks for their support.
If your question does win a vote you’re in for double congratulations! Curious City staff will discuss options of how
you might participate in the investigation, depending on your interest and schedule, as well as the schedule
of reporters or producers. The public at large will also be able to follow the investigation as it unfolds via our
Tumblr, Facebook page, Twitter feed and Website.
There is hope for your question! WBEZ editors and producers regularly scan the question archive. Often, they’ll
investigate questions that never made to a voting round. Or, they’ll find that a question has already been
answered in some way — either through a previous Curious City investigation or a WBEZ radio story, show
segment, interview or Web story. There’s another way your question may be answered: The public weighs in!
Anyone can comment on questions. If you know the answer to someone else’s question or even have leads or
points others should consider, don’t be shy! Let them know the information you have and whenever possible, cite
Curious City staff edit some questions for clarity and brevity. Editors and producers attempt to recast otherwise
relevant or provocative questions that mischaracterize small details or remain too broad. The goal is to indicate
what lines of investigation WBEZ is likely to pursue, so the public can clearly understand the choices and vote