Kurt Sampsel

Intern, Essential Pittsburgh

Kurt Sampsel has just completed a graduate degree in media and culture at Carnegie Mellon University. For his degree at CMU, he undertook a study of the Federal Communications Commission that attempts to demystify the regulatory agency in the interest of helping average members of the public gain more oversight and control over the media system.

Originally from Massillon, Ohio, Kurt has been a Pittsburgh resident since 2008, and he’s always trying to learn more about the Pittsburgh region. As an intern for WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh, Kurt brings a background as a teacher of writing, communications, and media studies. To his teaching background he adds a personal passion for storytelling and for journalism in the public interest.

In his spare time, Kurt enjoys sampling new and different pizzas throughout the Pittsburgh region, and he maintains a pizza review blog with his best friend, a fellow Pittsburgh pizza enthusiast.

Tzuhsun Hsu / Flickr

Last month Bar Marco, a trendy restaurant in the Strip District, announced that they plan to do away with tipping this Spring. There’s been an outpouring of interest, curiosity and praise from all over the country.

Bar Marco Co-Owner Bobby Fry and Events Coordinator Andrew Heffner talk about how they came to this decision and how they plan to make it work.

A no-tipping policy has pros and cons for owners, servers, and customers. Offering their perspectives are Meg Fosque, the National Development Director for Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), as well as Kevin Joyce, owner of the Carlton Restaurant in Pittsburgh and a member of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

According to Fry, Bar Marco made the decision to discontinue tipping after encountering research that suggested eliminating the practice could help mitigate some of the restaurant’s scheduling concerns. Workers in restaurants and retail environments often face schedule fluctuations that make their financial and personal lives difficult, Fry says. Bar Marco’s plan to cease the tip system involves creating a conventional forty-hour schedule for its employees and paying the kitchen staff the same as the servers: a standard yearly salary of $35,000.

Clyde Robinson / Flickr

Music can soothe you, make you cry, get you pumped up for a workout, or make you tap your feet. And to Brian O’Roark, professor of economics at Robert Morris University, music is also a great way teach economics.

For his efforts, O’Roark was recently recognized by the Middle Atlantic Association of Colleges of Business Administration, which bestowed upon him an Undergraduate Teaching Innovation Award.

O’Roark says that his interest in using music to teach was inspired, in part, by the 1990s VH1 music video series “Pop-Up Video,” which showed music videos and added jokes and anecdotes about the artist in pop-up text that would flash on the screen.

He realized that this combination of music with storytelling could also be used in teaching.

Light Brigading / Flickr

Demonstrations have been happening all over the country following a Missouri grand jury's announcement that it will not seek an indictment of police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Rachel Lippmann covered last night's announcement for St. Louis Public Radio and joins us for an update. David Harris, University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor, explains why a grand jury was used and offers his thoughts on the prosecutor's approach.

Lippman says that Ferguson has been comparatively calm today after hours of demonstrations. She says that St. Louis police reported that demonstrations last night were the worst seen since the shooting occurred in August, with many shots fired and more than a dozen buildings burned to the ground.

Meanwhile, Harris explains that there were several different options for moving forward in the Ferguson case, but the prosecutor used the grand jury option in order to involve members of the community while simultaneously absolving himself of responsibility for making the decision.

Ryan Loew / WESA

George Takei, who originated the character of Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek,” joins us in studio. This weekend, Takei will host the PNC Pops "Sci-Fi Spectacular” at Heinz Hall. Takei talks about that event, his acting career, his history of activism and the upcoming Broadway musical "Allegiance," in which he has a starring role.

Shaun / Flickr

  

Updated at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday: Pittsburgh has advanced to the final round of Gawker's "America's Ugliest Accent" tournament. But is this a source of pride or a source of embarrassment?

Some area linguists argue that when people make fun of local accents or describe them as “ugly,” they’re actually making fun of poor and working class people.

University of Pittsburgh linguistics professor Scott Kiesling has researched the Pittsburgh accent in collaboration with Barbara Johnstone, CMU professor of English and linguistics and author of "Speaking Pittsburghese."