Change Agents Newsletter: Meet Jeb Backe!

December 22, 2022


(Photo by Emma Soto)

Jeb is a journalist and audio producer from Pennsylvania. They got their start in college radio at WKCO while attending Kenyon College. Jeb has since gone on to work for the likes of WXPN, WBEZ, local Chicago news publications, and more. They are also an alum of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Jeb’s journalistic work is informed by their creative practices and background in Anthropology.

Jeb shared their inspiration for this project in their own words in response to a few questions:

- Why do you want to cover this story for Change Agents?

Youth who are experiencing homelessness in Chicago are undercounted and frequently clumsily respresented. My intent in this story is to counteract inaccuracy and re-characterize the public bias around what someone experiencing homelessness looks like.

- Why did you wanted to want to work with Change Agents?

Change Agents utilizes a style of journalism that I think should be far more common. I was pulled by the direct community engagement and collaborative style of reporting. I think journalism has a long history of speaking about communities without their opinions and perspectives being accurately depicted. Obviously we constantly run the risk of misrepresentation whenever an individual is not speaking about themselves on their own behalf. But I think that this process of direct exchange between “journalist” and “subject” is one that breeds more authenticity.

- What additional skills are you developing/sharpening through Change Agents?

I’ve been building upon my ability to collaborate with the groups that are depicted in the show. I think we achieve a more comprehensive understanding and engaging story when creating in community.

- How are your efforts part of the Change Agents process?

I am an audio producer and journalist creating an episode for the new season. This means I’ve been in the field and in the books– researching and interviewing to get a wide reaching understanding of this subject. My time is also spent writing, recording, and sound designing for my episode.

- What is a fun fact or two about yourself that you do not mind sharing?

I am a fervent lover of mending. I think it can be a beautiful art from. I’m also philosophically and environmentally inclined to believe that keeping your clothes alive as long as possible is a good thing.

- What was a light bulb moment while producing your story for Change Agents?

Before engaging directly with the stories and data around what it looks like to be a young person experiencing homelessness, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the severity. But in these months deep diving, I have come to see how gravely I underestimated the broken state of our homeless support systems.

Follow them on Twitter: @jebwulff.

Visit their website 

(Photo Courtesy of the Chicago Reader)

A Word From The Executive Producers:

All of us here at Change Agents couldn’t be more excited to share season 3 with everyone. These episodes are the culmination of 12-plus weeks of hard work and close collaboration between our journalists and community partners. They represent the diversity of issues, people and neighborhoods  that make up this big and beautiful city, with episodes looking at the availability of mental health services in Brighton Park and the Southwest side, restorative justice practices in Austin, construction training and placement in the building trades in east Garfield Park and Pullman, youth violence prevention and empowerment activities in Austin, tackling anti-Blackness in Chinatown and wraparound services for homeless youth in Auburn Gresham.  As always, we’re looking forward to hearing your feedback!  

- Judith McCray & Maurice Bisaillon


Happy Holidays!

(L-R): Judith McCray, Aaron Allen, Nicole Murayama Nir, Wendy Wei, Grace Del Vecchio, Lee Edwards, Leslie Hurtado, Maurice Bisaillon. Photo by Aaron Allen 

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