Heather McClain

Assistant Producer, Essential Pittsburgh

Heather McClain is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, originally from the Main Line Philadelphia area. Her interests in the environment and sustainability have been reflected throughout her career, most recently as a news anchor and features reporter/producer at WBZH Community Radio in Pottstown, PA. At WBZH, Heather was host and producer of the weekly program Our Environment, and worked part-time as production assistant for the PBS TV program Growing a Greener World. Heather started her career at the CBS Early Show and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. She developed her public radio skills at WRTI public radio at Temple University.

Ways To Connect

BYS yoga studio / Facebook

From the downward sun salutation, to the archer, yoga enthusiasts are striking poses across the country. And yoga studios are springing up everywhere.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris, the classic techniques of yoga date back more than 5 thousand years, and come from a desire to develop greater personal freedom, health, and self understanding.

Tim Murphy / murphy.house.gov

These topics air Wednesday December 18, 2013 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.


Last week the Carnegie Museum of Art posted a tweet with an old advertisement for a 1960 Westinghouse Center Drawer Refrigerator asking,

“Have you seen one of these in your garage or in your neighbor’s basement?”

Braddock Youth Project / Superior Motors Kickstarter

These topics air Tuesday December 17, 2013 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

Amy / Flickr

These topics air Monday December 16, 2013 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

World Cafe Live / WXPN

David Dye, host of WXPN's World Cafe Live came to Pittsburgh back in November for the Sense of Place Series. The collection of interviews and performances airs this week.

Last Saturday, during a production of Bricolage Theater's "Midnight Radio Animated Holidaze" show, a thief robbed the offices of computers and personal items. Ironically, Animated Holidaze includes a telling of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

In an email sent out this morning the owner of Bricolage wrote:

90.5 WESA

The Pennsylvania Senate could be voting on legislation this week to overhaul the state's child abuse laws.

Three Senate committees have advanced six bills, the most important of which would change the definition of what constitutes child abuse, making it tougher and bringing it into line with the standards used in many other states.

The new wording would include, “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to a child.” It also lists a number of acts that would constitute abuse, such as kicking, burning or forcefully shaking or striking a child less than one year old.

David Laskin

David Laskin is a Seattle based writer and author of the award-winning book, The Children’s Blizzard.

In his latest work, The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century, Laskin tells the stories of three branches of his family: European victims of the Holocaust, pioneers of Palestine, and those who immigrated to America and founded the Maidenform Bra Company.

Robert Morris University

Dr. Rex Crawley was a longtime professor at Robert Morris University and founder and co-director of the Black Male Leadership and Development Institute.

He died last week of complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 49.

We spoke with him in June, as the institute’s week-long workshops were getting underway and talked about the need for such an institution in Southwestern PA.

Dr. Crawley is survived by his wife, Daria and two sons, Xavier and Vaughan.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Through her new novel The Valley of Amazement author Amy Tan explores the struggles of mother-daughter relationships.

She says the staging of the book's characters in a Chinese courtesan house, was partly inspired by what she learned from an old photo of Chinese women, which reminded her of her grandmother.

Thanksgivukkah/Modern Tribe / Facebook

This year we will experience a once in a lifetime convergence of holidays. Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah occur on the same day.

In celebration of what she calls a "Jewish-American mashup," Dana Reichman Gitell, a native of Squirrel Hill, has popularized the term “Thanksgivukkah” online.

She says most people are tickled by the playful cultural juxtaposition of imagery that can be found on sites like Modern Tribe.

3 Rivers Wet Weather

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority plans to spend more than $2 billion to build miles of new underground tunnels, and to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant.

Some clean river advocates are pushing for alternatives, like green infrastructure.

The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant looks at the latest in the debate over ALCOSAN’s plan to renovate the region’s sewer system in an on-going series titled Ripple Effects.

joseph a / Flickr

The PA state legislature has finally approved a transportation bill that would fund mass transit and infrastructure improvements. Governor Tom Corbett and many others in the state have been pushing for its passage for well over a year.

State capitol correspondent Mary Wilson says by leading the most recent round of compromises between Republican and Democratic Representatives, the House speaker should be credited for the final adoption of this contentious bill.

Drew Carey / Facebook

Drew Carey is a stand-up comic, turned actor and producer, who produced and hosted two hit shows simultaneously, the long-running ABC sitcom The Drew Carey Show, which ran from 1995-2004, and the improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

In 2007, Carey became host of The Price Is Right, succeeding longtime host Bob Barker.

While he continues to have a successful TV career, Carey says stand-up comedy is something he's always enjoyed doing and it helps him in his work on the Price is Right.

Walt Cisco / Dallas Morning News

Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Pittsburgh's Prime Stage Theatre is presenting The Kennedy Legacy, a program where audience members can relive the powerful speeches of President John F. Kennedy and share remembrances of that time period.

Prime Stage artistic director Wayne Brinda was 13 years old in 1963. And even though he was just a kid, Brinda remembers exactly where he was when he heard the president had been shot. 

CBS archives / Wikipedia

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy changed the lives of many, as well as the trajectory of world and media history. 

For professor Jeff Ritter, chair of the department of communication at La Roche College, TV coverage of the assassination set the stage for breaking news coverage in the future, and the trust Americans would have in veteran journalists such as Walter Cronkite.

Joseph A. / Flickr

Recently a French film crew came to Braddock, PA sensing that the fate of Braddock might well be the same for Western Europe.

What they discovered is: From George Washington to Andrew Carnegie, through the French and Indian War, to the collapse of the steel industry, these few acres along the Monongahela River have always been a battleground.

The film Braddock America – which played at the Cannes Film Festival and the Three Rivers Film Festival– lets the people of Braddock tell their stories, as they weave together the past, the present, and the future.

Co-directors Gabriella Kessler and Jean-Loïc Portron have different backgrounds and experiences but they found common ground in Braddock.

Brother's Brother Foundation / Facebook

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines on November 8th, organizations all over the world have been sending aid to the victims.

Locally, Brother’s Brother Foundation is working with the Philippine American Medical Society of Western Pennsylvania to move medical supplies to the Philippines.

Luke Hingson, president of Brother’s Brother says his organization has been active in the Philippines since the 1950s. One of the inherent problems when responding to natural disasters is the uncertainty of what to expect from the situation.

Lim CK / Flickr

China has one of the world's fastest growing economies. But, how do changes in China affect people in Pittsburgh?

PNC Vice President and Senior International Economist Bill Adams is co-author of the new book, In Line Behind A Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade.

Looking at the state of its current economy, and projections for the future, Adams is concerned about what happens if China runs out of the things it needs to keep growing.

Alexander Gardner / Wikipedia

150 years ago President Abraham Lincoln stood in Gettysburg, PA, at the site of one of the most important battles of the American Civil War to consecrate a cemetery for those who died for the Union cause. Lincoln’s speech was brief but had a lasting historical impact.

In the new book titled, The Greatest Speech Ever: The Remarkable Story of Abraham Lincoln and His Gettysburg Address, Judge James L. Cotton, Jr. looks at the influence Lincoln's famous words.

“The Gettysburg Address has just as much meaning and relevance today as it did 150 years ago,” says Cotton.

But he says the address received little appreciation in Lincoln’s lifetime.

The Retraction Heard 'Round the World

Bob Dvorchak / Sports n'at

Robert Morris University recently reported that nearly half of all Americans say they would favor a ban on contact football for kids that have not yet entered middle school.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports writer emeritus, Bob Dvorchak said on Essential Pittsburgh, “I think it speaks to the heightened awareness of head injuries on all levels of sports and especially youth sports.”

ebayink / flickr

Internet addiction is said to be more pervasive than alcoholism in the United States, and while treatment is available, how do you know when you need it?

Dr. Kimberly Young is founder of the Center for Internet Addiction at Bradford Regional Medical Center in central Pennsylvania, the first inpatient treatment program for Internet addiction in the nation.

Dr. Young says she first encountered internet addiction in 1994 when she learned that a friend’s husband was spending more than 50 hours a week in AOL chat rooms, at a time when internet usage was billed by the hour.

“It made me wonder, ‘could people get addicted to the internet in the same way we talk about drugs, alcohol, food, and gambling?’,” says Young.

From there she met people who have experienced job-loss, weight-loss and ruined relationships, because they couldn’t control their use of the internet.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

As Bill Peduto rolls out ideas for his new administration, Pittsburgh City Paper editor Chris Potter notes that the transition is an interesting honeymoon time period for the city and the mayor-elect. Diversity, accountability, and transparency have been common buzzwords for the emerging team.

He symbolically embraced the diversity of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods when he chose to hold his election night victory party at Homewood's Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum.

From there Potter says the Peduto cabinet is shaping up to be more diverse than the city of Pittsburgh itself, and not just for racial and ethnic reasons.

Dustin Williams / Flickr

With winter on the way, there’s no better time to escape the early snows by flying south, taking in gorgeous views, or embracing the snowy winter, with high alpine excursions.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme shares her top four favorite pre-holiday destinations.

Looking at America’s economy today, Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich has pointed to the decline of unions as a contributor to the stagnation of American wages.

When unions are strong, is the economy strong?

Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center says job growth and America’s recovery from the great recession have been too slow. With the decline in unions over the past few decades, he says wages have been flattened and even declined since the recovery began.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

On Tuesday October 1st the health insurance exchange, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, opens for enrollment. While the various insurance plans and stipulations can be confusing, there are many resources available to offer assistance.

On Thursday September 26th, representatives from various health access groups came together at the Community Broadcast Center to talk about how the new healthcare & insurance plans will affect individuals and businesses. Listen to an edited broadcast of the forum on Tuesday October 1 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Ryan Lowe / 90.5 WESA

On Wednesday, March 20th 90.5 WESA’s daily public affairs program Essential Pittsburgh hosted a Public Forum on the Black Middle Class in Pittsburgh.

Inspired by a Pittsburgh Quarterly article by journalist Ben Schmitt, the forum addressed the history and current experiences of the Black middle class in Pittsburgh. Listen to a broadcast of the forum Friday at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

In 2010, Pittsburgh was the first municipality in the nation to institute a ban on hydraulic fracturing. Many others have followed suit, including the boroughs of Baldwin, West Homestead and Wilkinsburg, as well as State College, PA.

Now citizens in Youngstown, Ohio are looking at the structure of Pittsburgh’s fracking ban in shaping a their own ordinances. PublicSource reporter Natasha Khan recently wrote about the ongoing debates in Youngstown as it pertains to jobs and environmental concerns.

Opponents of the Youngstown ban say it’s unconstitutional for a municipality to regulate beyond state and federal law. Similar objections have also been raised in Pennsylvania.

Carnegie International

Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the world’s longest-running exhibitions of contemporary art. The International has become Pittsburgh’s premiere event for groundbreaking modern art. The 2013 Carnegie International marks the first time three curators have been chosen.

Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski were tasked with finding art which portrays a sense of place. One of the first things they all discussed was how an exhibition of international ambition, can have its roots in Pittsburgh, in a meaningful way.