Jeff Brady knows enough to know he doesn’t know enough.
Born, raised and rooted in rural Oregon, Jeff is now a journalist covering the nation’s most pressing energy issues for National Public Radio.
“I spend a lot of time on research. If you have a curious mind, you can get into a rabbit hole. I spent 30 years learning I don’t know nothing,” he says with a laugh. “The issues can be complicated and there’s so much information. Most of what I’ve learned is through covering stories as a journalist.”
NPR is a nonprofit media organization that serves as national syndicator to a network of more than 1,000 public radio stations in the U.S. Launched in 1970, the radio network now reaches more than 20 million listeners weekly.
With a heart for the consumer, Jeff’s work often helps uncover injustices.
His reporting on flooded cars after Hurricane Katrina, for example, exposed efforts to stall a national car titling system. Today, the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System is back on track and saving consumers billions of dollars a year, according to the Department of Justice.
His reporting on oil industry employees revealed racism and sexism within the industry.
You may not know his name, but there is a good chance you know Jeff’s voice. With an approach that is both informed and matter of fact, Jeff clarifies complicated topics in 4-minute radio segments lively with information.
In recent years, listeners have learned about the Texas oil business hit hard by the pandemic, the closure of a lightbulb factory in Pennsylvania and a new generation of young climate activists.
Now, energy issues are at a fever pitch and Jeff is leading listeners through dramatic changes. There is no shortage of news—from weather-related power outages that have put stress on the country’s power grid to the push to electrify cars and homes, increased solar, wind and hydro power, and calls for upgrades to the nation’s electricity infrastructure.
In addition, President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035 is gaining speed.
Energy is such an important issue that Jeff—once the sole reporter covering the topic—worked to establish NPR’s environment and energy collaborative. A group of 20 reporters across the country work together to cover stories involving the natural world.
“Climate change is one of our largest stories, now and for decades,” he says. “There are going to be bigger changes.”
Jeff wasn’t always interested in power lines and the energy crisis.
Born and raised in Oregon, his childhood was steeped in the natural world—tied to rivers and woods. His father worked for the U.S. Forest Service for nearly three decades before retiring, then worked in a lumber mill.
“He did everything you can do with trees,” says Jeff. “He started planting them and ended up cutting them down.”
Jeff lived in rural places all along southwestern Oregon—from Nimrod to Roseburg to Gold Beach. He is the first in five generations not to work in a lumber mill.
His interest in radio arrived when he and his mother owned Brady’s Market, a small convenience store on the Oregon Coast. It is where he discovered public radio.
“I listened to talk radio incessantly,” Jeff recalls. “I found NPR’s Morning Edition, and one day there was a call for pledge drive volunteers.”
That volunteer opportunity led to another, this time in the newsroom.
“I totally fell in love with that,” he says.
Buoyed with the experience, at 23, Jeff enrolled in college. In 1995, he graduated with a bachelor’s in communications from Southern Oregon University. In 2018, he was awarded SOU’s Distinguished Alumni honor.
Jeff began his career at Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon, where he worked as the news director and produced a daily program with a staff of volunteers. He then worked at KTVL in Medford, Oregon, where he served as television anchor, reporter and reluctant weatherman.
In 1999, Jeff joined Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, where he covered the energy business—from the collapse of Enron to telephone deregulation.
He became a correspondent for NPR in 2003, based first in Denver, then moving to Philadelphia, where he now lives with his husband, Bob, and their puppy, Rochester.
Though Jeff has covered many of the nation’s most gripping stories, his first publication is the one he most fondly recalls.
“Ruralite had a kid’s section and I looked forward to it each month,” Jeff says. “When I was about 8 or 9 years old, Ruralite published my first work. It was a four-line Christmas poem. I still remember it:
Gifts are good.
Gifts are fine.
Gifts are great
especially when they’re mine.
“It was short and to the point,” Jeff says, laughing, “just like broadcast journalism.”