We Are Black Journos founder launches true-crime podcast with BBC and CBC

Hannah Ajala hunts down the real Janessa Brazil, the face behind an online catfish scam

Journalist and founder of community organisation We Are Black Journos, Hannah Ajala, is the host of BBC World Service’s newest true-crime podcast series - Love, Janessa

In this eight-part weekly investigative podcast series, Ajala - who also hosts the We Are Black Journos interview podcast - tracks down the real story behind adult entertainment star Janessa Brazil, whose face has been used as part of a popular online catfishing scam which lures victims to steal their money. 

Throughout the series, Ajala interviews victims of the catfishing scheme - including one who lost almost $250,000 (£202,912) as a result during a four-year-period of interactions with the scammer - as well as real-life scammers that give first-hand accounts on how and why they run their online con artist business. 

“In this immersive, ‘unputdownable’ investigative podcast, Hannah Ajala draws in listeners, taking them down one unexpected path after another and explores the many layers of a serious and growing online crime,” said BBC World Service podcast commissioning editor Jon Manel. 

The podcast is made in collaboration with broadcasting company CBS Listen, as part of its true-crime running series titled Uncover which has 19 seasons to date - each one unravelling a different investigation with a different host. 

Love, Janessa – the first in our collaboration with the BBC World Service – exemplifies best-in-class when it comes to reporting, storytelling and overall sound design,” said director of CBC Podcasts Arif Noorani. “This world-spanning, in-depth investigative series is a clear demonstration of our commitment to rich narrative storytelling and creating work for global audiences. We’re excited for people to listen!”

Manel also stated in the press release that Love, Janessa is the first of “three big shows” with the CBC and that there will be more to come in 2023. He also mentioned that it was “fantastic” working with the producers of the podcast series, Antica Productions and Telltale Industries. 

The BBC has produced an increasing number of investigative true-crime podcasts led by experienced journalists recently, including its latest show Buried on the Mobouy waste case which involved a two-year investigation by environmental journalists Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor. Additionally, the newest season of the BBC’s I Am Not a Monster podcast launched earlier this month, exploring the life story of Shamima Begum with investigative journalist Josh Baker as the host. 

In a previous interview at worldwide conference Podcast Day 24, Ajala spoke with PodPod about the importance of staying true to your brand while also not being afraid to take risks when it comes to podcasting and trying new formats - in the same way that she is with a true-crime investigative journalism podcast. 

“Sometimes you have to put quite a lot in to get a bit out but the results would be amazing because at least you’re investing in your art and making sure it’s reaching so many people so don’t be afraid to play around with different ways for your podcast to travel,” Ajala said. “...Take your time with things, be comfortable with your own style and own way of storytelling as well.”