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.

Pages

Essential Pittsburgh
6:40 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

A Wide World of Art Coming to Pittsburgh This Fall

Detroit artist Frank Pahl at the Mattress Factory through May 2014
Credit Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5WESA

There are many exciting arts events coming to Pittsburgh this fall. From the 35th anniversary of the Mattress Factory to feminist punk rock and of course, a big ‘ol rubber ducky.

Bill O'Driscoll, Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Pittsburgh City Paper says installations from the Mattress Factory's Detroit in Residence exhibit use found objects to their advantage.

"It was opportunity rather than devastation."

He found the basement exhibit from Scott Hocking especially notable. It utilizes the imagery of the Carrie Furnace in Rankin and salvaged figures from a bible theme park for "a mediation on post-industrial society."

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:53 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

What's on the Menu for Fall Dining in Pittsburgh?

Expect to see more small plates and veggies at some of Pittsburgh's most popular restaurants this fall.
Credit Muy Yum / flickr

If this week’s weather has put you in the mood for Autumnal spices and rich-flavorful comfort foods, you’re in luck. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette restaurant critic Melissa McCart says in the coming weeks, roughly  20 new restaurants will be opening in the Pittsburgh area.

"We're seeing a lot of casual fare. But then again we're also seeing casual small plates with more refined details," says McCart.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:16 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Preserving the Harvest, Beyond Canning

Pickling is a fairly simple preservation method. Find out how to create bread & butter pickles
Credit Rhonda Schuldt / Local Goodness

Food contributor, Rhonda Schuldt of LocalGoodness.com knows a number of ways for you to preserve your harvest this time of year. She shares some simple methods which go beyond the process of canning.

Read more
Essential Pittburgh
5:09 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

PTSD Treatment for Flight 93 Responders

Plane debris at the flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, PA. There's new support for first responders who worked among the wreckage.
Credit Flight 93 Memorial/National Park Service / Department of Justice

It's been twelve years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The events of that day still haunt many of the responders who worked at the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA.

In July of 2011 the World Trade Center Health Program, run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health under the CDC, began offering counseling for responders who are suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On May 1 of this year Flight 93 and Pentagon responders were offered this counseling.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:53 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Area 51 Questions Persist

A NASA satellite image of Area 51 in Nevada circa 2000
Credit NASA Landsat / Wikipedia

Late last month, the CIA released a classified report on the U2 spy plane. The report confirmed what many people have believed for decades. A secret military facility known as Area 51 does indeed exist.

Robert Marshall, program development coordinator of the Buhl Planetarium and Observatory says Area 51 is essentially a Department of Defense studio, where prototypes are tested.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:33 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Senator Casey Says US Needs To Take Action in Syria

PA US Senator Bob Casey talks about what actions America should take in Syria
Credit Senator Bob Casey

As classified congressional briefings continue today, Pennsylvania US Senator Bob Casey says he has no doubt that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian citizens.

Casey is a member of the National Security Working Group and thinks the United States needs to take an aggressive approach with Assad, by targeting the assets which allow Syria to maintain its military superiority in the region.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:46 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

The Thrill Mill: Contributing to Pittsburgh's Business Ecosystem

The Thrival Festival is a highly anticipated music and innovation event coming to Bakery Square in East Liberty this September.
Credit Somenametoforget / Flickr

Startup incubators provide entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow their ideas in an affordable space, with resources, mentoring and sometimes funding. They’ve sprung up all over Pittsburgh, especially in East Liberty. 

The Thrill Mill and its incubator space, the Hustle Den, is one of the new kids on the block. And while many incubators are focused on technology, Thrill Mill is supporting some diverse innovators.

For Bobby Zappala founder of the Thrill Mill, it all started when he moved back to Pittsburgh from Washington D.C. in 2006. He says he and his friends wanted to connect with other young people who had interesting business ideas. He says they host regular gatherings which became very popular.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:48 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

The Problem of Chronic Absenteeism

Ken Smythe-Leistico, assistant director at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools and Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit
Credit Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

Chronic absenteeism is a key driver of the nation's achievement, high school graduation and college attainment gaps. The pattern for kids missing school begins as early as kindergarten.

Linda Lane, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent, Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Ken Smythe-Leistico, assistant director at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development address the various reasons for chronic absenteeism.

Essential Pittsburgh
5:46 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

The Impact of Absenteeism

Ken Smythe-Lestico, assistant director, University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, Maria Searcy, Pittsburgh Obama school volunteer and tutor, Katie Carroll, Kindergarten teacher at Pittsburgh Faison School
Credit Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

Chronic absence takes a toll on students and the rest community from an early age. Katie Carroll is a Kindergarten teacher at Pittsburgh Faison School and thinks future learning patterns are developed as early as the first year.

"I try to establish relationships with parents so that the kids are really excited about coming to school."

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:18 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Why the "I Have a Dream" Speech Endures

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King delivering his famous speech.
Credit Wikipedia

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963, he brought the Civil Rights movement into the homes of mainstream white America.

As the first big integrated protest to be staged in the north, PR counselor and executive speech writer Bob Oltmanns says at that point in history, the speech was a breakout PR moment.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:40 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

A Moment Of Peaceful Integration in 1963

Thousands gathering peacefully at the reflecting pool in Washington DC
Credit US Marines / Wikipedia

Greensburg native, William Severini Kowinski was 17 years old when he participated in the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom on August 28th, 1963. He had been campaigning for John F. Kennedy since the age of 15 and was inspired by Kennedy’s views on the civil rights struggle.

Kowinski went by train with a group called the Catholic Interracial Council. It was only his second train ride and his most vivid memory of the ride involved a train car packed with young people.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
5:47 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

What Makes a Good Sports Song Stick?

Bucs euphoria can be felt and heard all over town. University of Pittsburgh music professor Deane Root, explains why some sports songs are more enduring than others.
Credit Jwalter522 / Flickr

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in a record winning season, and the Bucs euphoria can be felt and heard all over town. 

Songs like "Beat 'em Bucs" are gaining new popularity on drive-time radio and YouTube.

Batter walk up songs such as  "Apache" from the Sugarhill Gang, can be purchased on iTunes for Garrett Jones fans.

When a Pittsburgh team starts doing well, we can’t help but sing.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:31 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Pittsburgh Civil Rights Leader Remembers the 1963 March on Washington

Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Long-time civil right activist and former Pittsburgh City Councilman Sala Udin recently spoke with WESA Senior News Editor, Mark Nootbaar about his memories of the 1963 March on Washington.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
4:28 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Workers Demonstrate for Fair Wage & Commemorate March on Washington

People carried signs for many civil rights causes in 1963, jobs and workers' rights were chief among them.
Credit American Jewish Congress records / wikipedia

The group One Pittsburgh is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by staging a protest at the Strip District McDonald’s drive thru, Saturday. Protest organizer, Calvin Skinner says people often forget that the 1963 March on Washington was titled, “the march for jobs and freedom.”

“The March on Washington was always about Civil Rights,” says Skinner “But also about economic rights and economic justice and that’s a story that is not told. It’s a place where we’ve lost significant ground in this country.”

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
2:32 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

An Update on the Blooming Corpse Flower

Spectators flocked to the Phipps Conservatory this week.
Credit Casey Premoshis / The Allegheny Front

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has been swarming with visitors over the last few days. And thankfully, not flies.

The rare and odoriferous corpse flower has been in bloom for the last 48 hours.  Casey Premoshis visited the giant plant named "Romero" for the Allegheny Front and WESA:

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
7:45 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Friday Rundown: A Progressive Papacy and the Benefits of Urban Farming

Beechview Community Garden on the Southern border of Pittsburgh
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

These topics air at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA

What Does Bishop David Zubik Think of the Pope's Comments?
Earlier this week, Pope Francis made the comment; "Whom am I to judge?" when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests. The Pope's comments about gays and women came during an in flight news conference on his way back home from Brazil and have been called "revolutionary" by some. The Most Reverend David Zubik, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh joins us to discuss the Pope's comments and what they mean for the church.

A Hands On Education: Farming and Entrepreneurship at Shady Side Academy
Throughout the growing season, our local food contributor Rhonda Schuldt has been visiting markets and farms to report back on good food that can be found in our area. She’s also asked you, our listeners, for suggestions of interesting markets and farms to visit. The Fox Chapel Market at Shady Side Academy recently responded by sharing their unique program, where students run the market as part of an agriculture and business curriculum. Rhonda Schuldt talks about what she found at the Shady Side Academy farmers market in Fox Chapel.

Farming in the Steel City
Since the 2008 economic downturn, city-farming has gone from an offbeat DIY source for cheap groceries, to a way to engage whole communities in the farming process and improve nutrition for people living in food deserts.  The city of Pittsburgh is home to some interesting agricultural projects at both the small and large-scale level. Hops and fruit trees in Garfield anyone? The possibilities for those wanting to farm in the city are pretty broad and it helps to know where to start. Heather Mikulas works in local food infrastructure and agricultural entrepreneurship for the Penn State University Extension Office in Allegheny County. She helps backyard farmers in Pittsburgh develop their agricultural ideas and talks about ways you can farm in Pittsburgh.

Essential Pittsburgh
6:09 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

City Paper Critic Says "Pacific Rim is So Much Better Than the Trailer"

Did Pacific Rim live up to your expectations?
Credit Pacific Rim / Facebook

A diverse array of films are hitting screens around town. One film of note for the average Pittsburgher is A New York Heartbeat. Pittsburgh City Paper film critic, Al Hoff says movie makers attempted to make Pittsburgh look like Brooklyn in the 1950s. When Hoff asked the film creator why the film was shot in Pittsburgh, she was told it's because of the city’s “gritty alleys, rusty bridges and lack of contemporary graffiti.” Hoff describes the film as a small-scale movie, with a low budget feel, but not bad if you’re looking for an off-beat love story and views of Pittsburgh.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
3:30 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

Rare Cars & High Speeds at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Vintage cars are back to race in Schenley Park this weekend
Credit PghVintageGP / Flickr

In the last week you may have noticed classic cars rolling through the East End or parked with their hoods propped up and on display. This Saturday some of those vintage cars will race a 2.3 mile street course through Schenley Park’s many twists and turns, at speeds of more than 100mph in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. Board member and racer Mike Zappa says he’s prepped his 1962 MGB roadster by checking safety wires, bolts, tires and anyplace fluids could leak. Overall, for the vintage race car owner, Zappa says it takes two things to really prepare a 50 year old roadster to race, a lot of patience and a lot of time.

Zappa says while he’s able to dedicate the time, “the patience runs short because you want things to get done sooner instead of later.”

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:18 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Steelers Former Offensive Linemen Speaks Out About Stigma of Epilepsy

Alan Faneca was an All-Pro Guard for the Steelers
Credit Steel City Hobbies / Wikipedia


Former Steelers offensive lineman and all-pro guard, Alan Faneca returns to Pittsburgh this week, as honorary chairman of the Epilepsy Foundation of Central and Western Pennsylvania’s 25th Family Fun Run and Walk, taking place Saturday.

Faneca was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager in Texas. And despite the condition, he played 13 seasons in the NFL, 10 of which with the Steelers, including a victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XL.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:17 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Reporting Wage Violations at Pennsylvania Hotels

The Fairmont Hotel Pittsburgh
Credit Martha Rial / PublicSource


Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the country -- behind Texas, Alabama and Florida -- for the number of hotels with labor law violations, according to the Department of Labor and a recent PublicSource story. This includes wage and child labor violations.

PublicSource Reporter Leah Samuel says because many hotel workers are low skilled and in the hospitality industry, where tips may be given, they’re especially vulnerable to wage violations.

“In Pennsylvania, you can actually pay someone as low as $2.83 an hour if they receive tips,”  Samuel explains. So even if a hotel worker normally gets paid at or above the minimum wage, when it comes to overtime, the rate might be 1.5 times that $2.83, which is illegal.

“It’s supposed to be 1.5 times the regular wage they would receive, minus something called the ‘tip credit’.”

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
10:00 am
Thu July 4, 2013

4th of July Holiday Rundown

Credit Brian Siewiorek / Flickr

Essential Pittsburgh will be back on the air Monday July 8th

On Thursday July 4th, celebrate the birth of our nation by making fun of it, with The Capitol Steps' one hour radio special at noon and 8pm.

On Friday July 5th, a special science and technology program titled Burn, An Energy Journal airs at noon and 8pm

From the staff of Essential Pittsburgh, have a safe, happy and healthy holiday weekend.

Essential Pittsburgh
12:26 pm
Sun June 30, 2013

Monday July 1st, 2013 The State Budget and How to Treat Obesity, Conversation Continued

The budget was passed on time this weekend. How inclusive will it be?
Credit 90.5 WESA

These topics air Monday in the noon hour on 90.5 WESA

Where Do We Stand With The State Budget?
The $28.37 billion state budget plan passed this weekend, just hours before the deadline. We'll talk about what's in the plan, what still needs to be addressed and what it means for the Corbett administration. Harrisburg Patriot News Editor, John Micek has been tracking all of the details from the State Capitol.

Treating Obesity as a Disease
The American Medical Association officially re-classified obesity as a disease. Experts are now saying this recognition will enable doctors to better treat the 1 in 3 Americans who struggle with obesity. Health plans will be re-formulated to create more products to help patients manage their weight. Dr. Esa Davis, a practicing physician with UPMC, joins us to discuss the changes this re-classification will bring to the healthcare system.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
7:50 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Pittsburgh Home Renovation: A Labor of Love

CJ is well organized with departments for everything from toilets to door knobs
Haldan Kirsch 90.5 WESA

Earlier this month we took listeners on a tour of historic houses in the Observatory Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where residents have restored their homes to early 20th century splendor, with some modern conveniences. While the do-it-yourself home makeover isn’t as quick and easy as those on HGTV, what they have in common is the unexpected drama of renovation. In looking at the home restoration and renovation process there are some horror stories, but also some unique Pittsburgh resources.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
7:47 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

App Certain: Internet Security On Mobile Devices

App Certain is an app which monitors other apps
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Many parents find it’s important to monitor their child's screen time on the home computer.

But they may not consider the fact that mobile devices such as smart-phones and tablets are swiftly becoming our most prominently used computers.

Spencer Whitman, CEO of App Certain says most parents don’t realize what their kids are doing on mobile devices, especially when it comes to apps.

So App Certain gives parents a window into the behavior of the mobile apps their kids are downloading.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
6:53 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Friday June, 28th 2013 How Will Immigration Reform Change the Country?

The US Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill Thursday.
Credit wikipedia

These topics air Friday in the noon hour on 90.5 WESA

Immigration Reform
Thursday afternoon the Senate passed an extensive immigration reform bill. However, critics believe the bill could run into trouble in the Republican controlled House.  This is the first major immigration reform since 1986 when Congress passed a bill giving potential amnesty to more than three million undocumented immigrants. What’s different this time and how will immigration reform change the country? We’ll talk with immigration attorney and former U.S. diplomat Kamana Mathur.  Also taking part in the conversation will be immigration attorney Rohit Dharwadkar.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:17 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Thursday June, 27th 2013 Supreme Court Decision on the Defense of Marriage Act

A crowd gathered in Downtown Pittsburgh reacts to Wednesday's Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

These topics air Thursday in the noon hour on 90.5 WESA

Supreme Court Decides on Same-Sex Marriage
Across the country people have been awaiting the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act. Yesterday, the court handed down a landmark decision striking down the 1996 California law blocking federal recognition of gay marriage. The court is also allowing gay marriage to resume in California by declining to decide a separate case. Joining us to discuss these landmark decisions is Anthony Infanti professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and Gary Van Horn, President of the Delta Foundation.


Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:10 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

The Geopolitics of Energy With James Clad

Global energy changes may be slow moving but they're happening
Credit Indigo / Flickr

The connection between reliable sources of energy, global prosperity and security has profoundly impacted international relations since before the industrial revolution.

According to James Clad, consultant and distinguished research fellow at the National Defense University, "energy is inextricably part of a contemporary society."

As dependent as we are on oil in the United States, it's commonly known that a shift away from petroleum-based energy could dramatically impact our economy and way of life. Clad says petroleum based economies are very mobile and agile, private vehicles let us go from point A to point B without relying on large expensive infrastructure.  Which is why economies like ours find it hard to completely do away the use of hydrocarbons.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:02 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Public Opinion on Energy Issues

Canada is now the number one supplier of energy to the United States. Canadian researcher Nik Nanos, chairman of Nanos Research Group, says while we've relied on oil from the Middle East in the past, with shale gas and new discoveries of oil in North America, there's a new narrative for energy policy and Western PA is a big part of the picture.

A recent poll from Nanos revealed 3 out of 4 Americans feel there should be a continental energy strategy.

Pittsburgh, he says is part of an energy triangle that includes Houston and Calvary, Canada. As part of the triangle Pittsburgh and the rest of the U.S. must have a good relationship their neighbors to the north, and rethink energy in more broad terms than electric bills and gas prices.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:10 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

What's Next for Pennsylvania Transportation?

State Senator Jim Ferlo
Credit SenatorFerlo.com

A version of the Pennsylvania transportation funding bill passed last week is expected to be voted on in the State House of Representatives Tuesday.

But State Senator Jim Ferlo is concerned that the bill does not allocate enough money for infrastructure maintenance. He's also opposed to a provision that would allow partial privatization of select bus lines. State Senator Jim Ferlo talks about why he voted against the funding bill and legislation that would change the structure of the Port Authority of Allegheny County Transit board.

Read more
Essential Pittsburgh
8:08 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Remaking a Marvel of Pittsburgh Industry

An artist rendering of the 20-inch Rodman gun at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia
Credit Project Gutenberg

The Heinz History Center unveiled its newest exhibition last Saturday, Pennsylvania's Civil War. Among the exhibits is a replica of the most impressive cannon of its era: the 57 ton Rodman Columbiad, forged in Pittsburgh. The cannon was a technological breakthrough in its time, and the recreation of the enormous cannon — all the way down to the initials scrawled into the barrel — is a testament to how modern technology can improve the museum experience.

Read more

Pages