Katherine Blackley

Essential Pittsburgh Fellow

Katie is from Ashland, Ohio and is on schedule to graduate from Duquesne University in May 2014 with a B.A. in Media Management and Production as well as English Literature.

She has served as a WESA fellow with 90.5's daily news program Essential Pittsburgh since May 2013 and hopes this will lead toward her career goal of being a producer in public radio or public television.

Fun fact:  "I do Sesame Street character impressions...Ernie is my best."

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:37 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Global Links Finds Success in Giving Medical Surplus to the Needy

Global Links works with local hospitals to transfer supplies to hospitals in need.
Credit Dwight Knox / Symbius Medical / flickr

Dedicated to supporting underprivileged medical facilities both in the region and overseas, Global Links works with hospitals in the greater Pittsburgh area to collect, refurbish and distribute medical supplies.

CEO and co-founder Kathleen Hower says while the company remains firmly rooted in Pittsburgh, they’ll continue to help those in need worldwide.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:34 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

The "Keys to the City" in Alexandria, Virginia

For a weekend trip to Alexandria, Virginia, take some advice from the New Girl!
Credit Jeanette Runyon / flickr

Visitors to vibrant Alexandria, Virginia will find a city painted with history and proud to show it off.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme finds the waterfront town both scenic and accessible, especially to visitors with dogs.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:52 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Hispanic Business Contribution in Pittsburgh

The IGA Market on Broadway in Beechview, is one of many businesses catering to the neighborhood's growing Hispanic population.
Credit Market on Broadway IGA / Facebook

As the Hispanic population in the Pittsburgh region grows, businesses touting authentic Latin food are flourishing.

These stores bring culture and exposure to the region, says business contributor Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University.

They’re also providing area grocery stores with Latin American and Mexican items to fill the ever-increasing demand. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:12 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

Mayor's Right-Hand Man Testifies Before Grand Jury

Credit Noah Brode/90.5 WESA

Last week Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s Chief of Staff, Yarone Zober spent more than an hour and half behind closed doors testifying before a grand jury. 

The news follows reports that former Pittsburgh Chief of Police, Nate Harper will plead guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion for diverting funds from unauthorized accounts.  Many believe the federal investigation aims to look into all elements of Mayor Ravenstahl’s personal life.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:38 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

The Diet Industry is Big Business

People who have lost and kept off 30 lbs or more suggest working out for 150 minutes per week.
Credit Lululemon Athletica / flickr

As obesity rates rise in the United States, so too do the amount of citizens annually attempting to diet. Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, says studies show at any one time, America has an estimated 108 million people on diets.

She notes that most are women, most make four or five attempts per year to diet and an overwhelming majority are trying to lose weight by themselves, without a plan or program.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:24 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Making Pittsburgh Appealing for Immigration & Innovation

How can new immigration policy fuel the brain gain in Pittsburgh?
Credit Autophotomoto / Flickr

Hundreds of immigrants come to Pittsburgh to refine their skills in engineering and the sciences at schools like CMU and University of Pittsburgh. But current immigration laws often cannot keep this potential workforce in the United States.

Brian Kennedy, Vice President of Strategic Services and Government Relations for the Pittsburgh Technology Council says these potential entrepreneurs are leaving Pittsburgh for places that have more comprehensive immigration legislation.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:23 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Heinz Cuts Employees After Investment Firm Acquisition

H.J. Heinz Company was founded in 1869 in Sharpsburg and moved its headquarters to Pittsburgh in 1971.
Credit Alex Abboud / Flickr

Global ketchup manufacturer H.J. Heinz Company recently announced a layoff of 350 employees in the Pittsburgh region. This follows a $28 billion acquisition by investment consortium Berkshire Hathaway and their affiliate 3G Capital.

The company has not yet disclosed how much the layoffs will save them. Pittsburgh Business Times manufacturing reporter Justine Coyne says cutbacks are not unusual during an acquisition, but because of Heinz’s historic connection with the city, many locals are hurting.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:14 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Legislation Could Eliminate School Property Tax

Credit Tim Lambert / WITF

After a year of review, Pennsylvania House Representative Jim Cox reintroduced House Bill 76 outlining the benefits of eliminating the school property tax in the Commonwealth. With 91 co-sponsors in the House and 22 in the Senate, Rep. Cox is confident the bill will appeal to both legislators and tax-payers. Matthew Knittel, director of the Independent Fiscal Office, has reviewed versions of the bill and says from a revenue perspective, the bill could be made to work in certain parts of the state.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:40 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

CDC: 'Underutilized' HPV Vaccine Provides Effective Protection

The CDC calls the HPV vaccine "safe, effective and underutilized."
Art Writ VCU CNS/ flickr

Human Papillomavirus is spread by skin-to-skin contact, can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, genital cancer. Yet it can be easily prevented through a three-shot vaccination process, which the CDC says is underutilized. Dr. Jonathan Pletcher works at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and councils parents and their children about the vaccine and any possible risks.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:17 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Five Marathons in Five Days For MS Research

Dawn Kumlien will be running a part of the 3,000 mile relay for Multiple Sclerosis.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Beginning August 18, Dawn Kumlien of the North Hills will run five marathons in five days from Youngstown, Ohio to Clearfield, Pennsylvania as a part of the MS Run the US relay. After Dawn’s mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980, her sister ran relays to raise money for research. Now Dawn is taking advantage of her own opportunity to raise money for MS. She says she expects to raise at least $10,000 by the end of the run.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:49 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Sci-Fi Marathons, Indie Films and Classic Flicks Coming in the Next Week

Credit Pop City Media

Pittsburgh theaters offer a wide range of films in a number of unique theaters. Dormont’s Hollywood Theater houses niche film festivals, indie movie one-night previews and classic flicks while other theaters around the city will show big screen blockbusters and new documentaries. Pittsburgh City Paper film critic Al Hoff helps parse out the good from the bad.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:20 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Do Pittsburgh Upward Mobility Rankings Ring True?

Partially based on the city's diverse and solid middle class, Pittsburgh has been ranked in the top tier for social mobility
Credit Mark Knobil / Flickr

On the heels of a popular study tracking social mobility in American cities, Pittsburgh's top tier ranking has been widely discussed.  Stephen Herzenberg, economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, and University of Pittsburgh regional economist Chris Briem explain how Pittsburgh’s economic past has influenced our social standing today.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:44 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

BikeFest: Celebrating the Culture of Cycling

Potential bike share station
Credit Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Bike Pittsburgh’s annual Bike Fest is back with over 100 events, celebrating the bike community and the city.  Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Brinker says with the addition of more bright green lanes, miles of bike trails and a promising new bike share program for 2014, Pittsburghers are embracing the bicycle culture.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:18 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Terror Threat Closes American Embassies & Consulates in the Middle East

The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is one of the many embassies and consulates that have been closed following terror threats.
Credit Ryan Lackey / flicr

Last weekend the US Government issued a worldwide travel alert for Americans abroad, and closed American embassies in the Middle East. It's been called the “most serious” terrorist warning post 9-11. Dan Simpson, former US Ambassador and Editorial Editor for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, weighs in on the government’s decision, the NSA involvement and why he feels the alert is a political game.

Many believe that issuing these alerts is an attempt by the government to show support for the NSA wiretapping leaks.  Simpson agrees, saying that he can see the government wanting to identify a serious terrorist attack regardless of whether one is likely, in order to justify the NSA surveillance.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:57 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Trying to Live on the Minimum Wage

Credit Elyce Feliz / flickr

Originally meant to protect American workers from being exploited, the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938 and set mandatory federal minimum wages at 25 cents per hour.  In the years following, congress and the President acted to raise minimum wage to keep up with inflation and productivity. Around the 1980’s, it became much more difficult to get a labor wage bill out of congress and the term “living wage” circulates to replace the widely criticized minimum wage.  Many protesters and researchers find that the minimum wage does not reflect the actual cost of living and no longer keeps pace with the country’s economic growth. Labor Economist Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg shares his statistical findings and suggestions for improvement.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:05 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Aqua Man Miller Dives into Ocean's Seven Challenge

Swimmer Darren Miller
Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

After swimming across the North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland, Delmont native Darren Miller will become the first American man to complete the Ocean’s Seven.  This challenge requires swimmers to cross the seven most difficult ocean channels in the world.  He swims almost exclusively for his charity, the Forever Fund, which has already raised over $60,000 for families struggling to pay bills for their children living in cardiothoracic wards of hospitals.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:22 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Bishop Zubik Finds Pope Francis' Leadership Refreshing & Positive

Bishop Zubik thinks Pope Francis' comments are catching the attention of the public in a positive way.
Credit Deanna Garcia/90.5 WESA

Homosexuality has historically been a highly controversial subject throughout the Roman Catholic Church. But recent comments from Pope Francis may change the way the Church approaches the topic.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis said to reporters, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord, and has good will, who am I to judge?”  A statement, deemed by some as “revolutionary.”

Many say that statement highlights the compassionate nature of the new Pope and paves the path for possible internal changes in the Church. The Most Reverend David Zubik, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is enthusiastic about the new Pope’s leadership technique and finds that those in the region are equally excited.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:12 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Shady Side Academy Farm: Planting Seeds of Sustainabilty

The Fox Chapel farmers market is hosted by the Shady Side Academy and students manage various aspects
Credit Rhonda Schuldt / Local Goodness

Three years ago an administrator at Shady Side Academy noticed there was no market near the school’s location in Fox Chapel.  This motivated the school to host a Farmer’s Market

Two years later, stemming from the school’s commitment to sustainability, the Shady Side Academy Farm was planted.

The farm is managed primarily by students and is successfully integrated into the school’s curriculum. Rhonda Schuldt of Local Goodness explains the roles that students play in the farm and the market.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:01 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Urban Farming In Pittsburgh: Better Food From Your Backyard

The bioshelter at Garfield Farms will provide year-round growing.
Credit Garfield Farms

From the country to the city, many urban dwellers are beginning to develop self-sustainable farms in the backyards of their Pittsburgh apartments. These “city farms” engage communities in the farming process and improve nutrition to citizens that do not live near a grocery store or market.

Small gardens and urban livestock such as chicken and bees can be found on balconies, roofs and oftentimes in revitalized vacant lots.

Heather Mikulas works in local food infrastructure and agricultural entrepreneurship for the Penn State University Extension Office in Allegheny County and helps backyard farmers develop their own agricultural techniques. She says that everyone has a different reason to start planting an urban garden, but anyone can do it.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:40 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Former Penn State Adminstrators to Stand Trial

The trial of the three former administrators will take place near Harrisburg

Following two days of preliminary hearings, Former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and ex-athletic director Tim Curley will go to trial in what has been called the worst scandal in college football history. Bob Dvorchak, author of the book “Game Over” has written about the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, and says this is not at all a surprise.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:30 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Leaked EPA Fracking Report Reports Leaks

Credit Ari Moore / Flickr

A PowerPoint presentation leaked to reporters at the LA Times and other news agencies implies that methane from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, did contaminate wells in Dimock, PA.  The report comes from a regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency. Many believe the information was not disclosed as a result of pressure from lobbyists and political figures at the national level. 

According to the PowerPoint, the regional mid-Atlantic office of the EPA did not agree with the national decision to close the investigation in Dimock. Susan Phillips, Energy Reporter for StateImpact PA and shale gas reporter and author, Tom Wilber explained the difficult nature of regulating fracking and natural gas.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:32 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Local Jazz Pioneer is Living Legacy

Saxophonist and educator established, in 1969, one of only a few curriculum-based jazz studies programs at a major university.
Credit University of Pittsburgh School of Music

Multi-instrumental jazz musician Dr. Nathan Davis is the founder of the Jazz Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh and the Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert.  He recently announced his retirement from Pitt and reflected back on his career in the United States and in Europe, and his legacy in the world of jazz.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:55 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Why Does the Pittsburgh Police Residency Requirement Matter?

Commander Rashall Brackney of the Pittsburgh police speaks with protesters in the Hill District
Credit South / Pittsburgh for Trayvon

A group of Pittsburghers gathered in the Hill District two weeks ago to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman and to show their disdain for the American legal system. Commander Rashall Brackney was one of the officers who patrolled the demonstration.  The protestors spoke with Brackney throughout the evening, and it became evident that she had personal connections with many of the men and women sitting in the street.  She negotiated with the group on many issues and the protest continued peacefully. 

City Paper Editor Chris Potter wrote in his op-ed “Hitting Home,” that “her ties clearly helped defuse tensions on Centre Avenue that night.”

Brackney is a resident of the city of Pittsburgh and Potter points to this fact as an important element of the peaceful demonstration that night.  She had connections in the community in which she lived and therefore was able to deal with a potentially tumultuous situation in a calm manner.  But the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in the city of Pittsburgh says that lifting the standing residency requirement for officers would make recruitment and retention easier, but many taxpayers feel differently.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:33 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Camp Huff-n-Puff Gives Kids with Asthma the Summer Camp Experience

Kids at Camp Huff & Puff exercise their lungs by blowing bubbles.
Credit BreathePA / Facebook

Living in Pittsburgh with asthma can be difficult with air quality alerts, high pollen and ragweed levels, and general city pollution. Triggers for this chronic inflammatory disease are everywhere and no one knows this better than the kids trying to run outside and play. 

In the past, many believed that children diagnosed with asthma should not be physically active.  It was thought that the running and heat would cause an unnecessary increase in breathing problems. Yet 29 years ago, after parents expressed their fear of sending their children with asthma to summer camp, a new concept was born: Camp Huff-n-Puff.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:01 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

'Pops' Stargell Biography Highlights His Love for the City of Champions

Pops: The Willie Stargell Story by Richard "Pete" Peterson
Credit Triumph Books

National League and World Series MVP, Baseball Hall of Fame member and Pittsburgh Pirates all-time home run leader are only a few of the many titles held by the great Willie “Pops” Stargell. 

As a leader and advocate both on and off the field, Stargell remains one of the most beloved sports figures in Pittsburgh. His legendary status and continued admiration from baseball fans, prompted Pittsburgh native Richard “Pete” Peterson to author the player’s biography, Pops: The Willie Stargell Story.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:53 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Making Promises the City Can Keep

Ninth grade students practice their geometry skills at the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy.
Credit Gates Foundation / flickr

The Pittsburgh Promise has been providing scholarships to Pittsburgh public school students since 2008. They've pledged to promote the development of neighborhoods, city school reform, and give city students access and opportunities to attend a higher education institution.

Five years since its inception, the first batch of Promise recipients are graduating from their respective colleges and universities, and many critics are argue that the program has not been effective. Saleem Ghubril, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Promise maintains that the scholarship program is helping hundreds of students succeed after high school, while Jake Haulk, President of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, asserts that little has been done to improve the quality of the public schools. He says students are not receiving a sufficient education upon high school graduation.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:51 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Fruitvale Station and Typical Conjurings

Bringing the good and the bad news from the film reel, City Paper Film Critic Al Hoff presents her opinions on several upcoming movies and documentaries coming to a theater near you.

With a release date that could not be more timely, Fruitvale Station documents the final days of Oscar Grant, an African American man from San Francisco who was shot and killed by police while unarmed at a subway station. The film comes after the controversial George Zimmerman verdict  in which many believe race played a crucial role.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:56 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Tracking the Tank: What factors into gas prices?

Gas prices can fluctuate based on demand, world politics and severe weather predictions.
Credit Jeffrey Rolinc / flickr

Following a national price peak in February of $3.75 per gallon, gas prices are not predicted to reach any highs this summer, but numbers are still steadily rising.  Many different factors contribute to the cost of fuel including refinery upkeep, Middle East politics and consumer demand. Gregg Laskoski, Senior Problem Analyst for GasBuddy.com explains the regional gasoline situation.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:51 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Tracking the "Secret" Life of Soot

Daniel Tkacik studies soot particles from vehicles in his temporary lab: the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh.
Credit Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Breathing in the tiny particles emitted by automobile engines and power plants has been widely accepted by scientists and the public as being something to avoid.

But for a long time it was believed that these tiny particles, known as soot, were the sole toxic ingredient entering the lungs.  However, Reid Frazier of the Allegheny Front has discovered quite a different story. Scientists have found that soot leads a “secret life” after being released into the air, during which it picks up gases and other poisonous hitchhikers.  Before the soot actually enters the lungs these particles go through a unique evolution that involves a surprising combination of molecules.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:45 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Clean Water Groups Advocate for Stronger EPA Coal Plant Regulations

A barge pulls coal along the Monongahela River.
Credit Joseph A / flickr

According to a new report from a coalition of environmental and clean water groups, including the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action, at least 20 of 28 coal fired power plants in Pennsylvania discharge toxic coal ash or wastewater. These plants have no limits on the amount of toxic metals they are allowed to dump in public waters. Kim Teplitzky of the Sierra Club is one of the many concerned citizens calling for more stringent regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.

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