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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:06 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Bill Peduto's New Administration More Diverse Than Pittsburgh Itself?

Bill Peduto once referred to as the mayor of the East End, invites the whole city to take part in his administration.
Credit 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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:29 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Getting Away With That Special Someone Before the Holidays

Find some relaxing and scenic places to visit before the hustle and bustle of the holidays. El Tovar Hotel is one of the premiere lodges in the Grand Canyon region.
Credit 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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:12 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

American Economic Growth and Unions

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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:05 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Public Forum: Addressing Your Questions On the Affordable Care Act

From left to right: Rachel Dingfelder, Dr. Christopher Hughes, Erin Gill-Ninehouser, Titus North
Credit 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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:44 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Friday Re-broadcast: The Black Middle Class Experience in Pittsburgh

Representatives from The Urban League, Pittsburgh City Council and UPMC weigh in on Pittsburgh's African American Middle Class
Credit 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.

Essential Pittsburgh
4:05 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Discussing Municipal Bans on Fracking

Lynn Anderson, left, and Susie Beiersdorfer oppose fracking in Youngstown, Ohio
Credit 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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:52 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

2013 Carnegie International Explores a Sense of Place & Play

Exploring the not so serious side of the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie International
Credit 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.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:16 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Paywall Could Offer Opportunity For More In-depth Content

What's the future of digital newspaper content?
Credit Mal810 / Flickr

On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced plans to charge a $10 monthly access fee to users of its digital content. The Post-Gazette joins a growing number of newspapers to put their content behind a paywall.

Point Park University Director of Communications, Steve Hallock says people in the newspaper industry have been trying for years to figure out how to monetize their internet content. In other markets, such as Toledo, OH, paywalls have been successful. But with Pittsburgh’s competitive newspaper market Hallock says the Post-Gazette is a test case to watch.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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:

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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.

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