New from WBEZ Chicago: Award-winning podcast studio delivers new titles, return seasons and investigations for 2023

WBEZ Podcasts 2023
WBEZ Podcasts 2023

New from WBEZ Chicago: Award-winning podcast studio delivers new titles, return seasons and investigations for 2023

CHICAGO (January 24, 2023) – WBEZ Chicago is kicking off 2023 with a robust podcast lineup packed with diverse topics and new voices for listeners to discover. Brand new podcast titles, return seasons of WBEZ’s critically acclaimed podcasts, and fresh content from some of WBEZ’s long-running podcast favorites are available now.

To follow is the podcast rundown from WBEZ Chicago for the new year:

Motive Season 5: Chicago gang violence. Real people. Real stories. A way forward.

WBEZ’s investigative podcast Motive is returning this winter for a fifth season, this time for an inside look at anti-violence workers in the city of Chicago and alternative, community-based approaches to combating gun violence that go beyond policing. WBEZ criminal justice reporter Patrick Smith hosts this season.

Throughout the new season, Smith will offer insight into Chicago’s anti-violence work, what drives gun violence, and, importantly, what is being done to prevent gang-related shootings and reduce gun violence in the city. Motive listeners will meet CeCilia “CeCi” Mannion, a victim advocate in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, as well as “Fatz,” an ex-gang member from the East Garfield Park neighborhood, who intervenes after shootings to try and prevent retaliation and offer victims a pathway out of gang life.

“There is no better way to understand why people join gangs, what motivates shootings and what needs to be done to stop it than by spending time with these anti-violence workers,” Smith said.

Previous seasons of Motive have investigated Illinois prisons, the rise of white supremacy and extremism in America, and sexual assault in study abroad programs. Production staff for this latest season of Motive include WBEZ producer Marie Mendoza; Senior Editor Rob Wildeboer; and executive producer Kevin Dawson. The Motive season 5 trailer is available here.

Shoes Off: A Sexy Asians Podcast

In a brand new podcast, Shoes Off, WBEZ celebrates Asians who are making a mark on American pop culture and entertainment.

As WBEZ reporters and podcast co-hosts Esther Yoon-Ji Kang and Susie An said: “Asian Americans have long been made the butt of the joke. They still are. Asian women are oversexualized; Asian men are desexualized. We can’t win. Or can we? Shoes Off invites Asians to redefine the word “sexy” on their own terms and reflect on their identities.”

Shoes Off debuts in February with a six-episode season. In each episode, Kang and An will hang out with trailblazers like actor John Cho, journalist Lisa Ling, and musician Sameer Gadhia of Young the Giant. Shoes Off is produced by WBEZ producer Stephanie Kim and executive producer Brendan Banaszak. The Shoes Off trailer is available here.

Making celebrates Black icons and their origin stories

The latest season of WBEZ’s Making is now out in its entirety, available as a 10-episode binge listen for 2023. Each episode focuses on the origin story of a different iconic Black figure, how they were made and the people who were there – icons like Serena Williams, Rihanna, RuPaul, Jesse Jackson, and Maya Angelou, to name a few.

Making is hosted by Chicago-based journalist Brandon Pope, who tells the stories behind each icon, their formative years and their rise through their work and influence. He is joined in conversation by family members, friends and experts who offer insight on the most critical moments in each of the icon’s lives.

“With Making, we get to have some real, insightful and authentic conversations with people who helped shape some of the biggest names in the world, in a very intimate way,” said Pope. Making is produced by WBEZ’s Heena Srivastava and Justin Bull. All 10 Making episodes are available here.

The Rundown daily news podcast: Where FOMO meets curiosity

The Rundown podcast is another recent introduction from WBEZ, having just debuted in November 2022, with Chicago stories and conversations packed into bite-sized episodes every weekday. It is hosted by Erin Allen, a self-described artist and communicator with a deep background in audio production and storytelling. She said she is “driven by her curiosity about the stories of people,” and on The Rundown she shares not only Chicago’s daily news, but also helps Chicagoans explore the city’s neighborhoods, communities, people, events and ideas.

Morning episodes of The Rundown run each weekday with a curated newscast of top local stories, and bonus deep-dive episodes drop Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Recent afternoon episodes include “Since when are smiley emojis passive aggressive?” about the polarizing politics of emojis; “When English isn’t your first language,” about the top languages (besides English) spoken in Chicago and what they say about the city’s history and people; and “Sneakerhead University is a sea of gym shoe drip,” featuring an interview with the creator of Sneakerhead University, an interactive museum full of pop culture gems in downtown Chicago. The Rundown is edited by Ariel Van Cleave. Recent episodes of The Rundown are available here.

Nerdette goes “Undercover” for a peek inside the book industry

Greta Johnsen is WBEZ’s resident book expert and the host of Nerdette podcast, an interview show featuring authors, artists and more. Each month, she leads the popular Nerdette Book Club where she shares great books and even greater book discussions with listeners.

This month on Nerdette, Johnsen has introduced a three-part series called “Undercover.” It’s an exploration of the ways a book comes to life, from blurbs to audiobooks to screen adaptations. Through interviews with audiobook narrators, authors, casting directors, and critics, she investigates some of the most interesting and unknown aspects of the publishing industry. The first episode, “Undercover: The thorny business of book blurbs,” explores the role of book blurbs who writes them, and why it’s such an imperfect system. Nerdette’s “Undercover” was named as one of NPR’s new and noteworthy public media podcasts to listen to (January 2023). Nerdette is produced by Anna Bauman and executive producer Brendan Banaszak. All episodes of Nerdette, including the Undercover series, are available here.

Curious City turns 10!

Curious City started a decade ago as a news experiment focused on public-powered reporting, in which WBEZ journalists invite the public to help shape coverage with their questions about what they want to see covered in their communities. Now, in a special 10th anniversary episode, Curious City turns 10, listeners can hear about Curious City’s early days, some of the lessons learned over the years, and what’s next for Curious City - including how its Neighborhood Series seeks to better serve new communities of listeners through storytelling focused on one Chicago neighborhood for months at a time. All past episodes of Curious City are available here.

Where to listen

WBEZ’s podcasts are available on all major listening platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR One, Pocket Casts or wherever listeners get their podcasts; on smart speakers; on the WBEZ mobile app and online at