Marcus Charleston

Producer, Essential Pittsburgh

Marcus Charleston joins Essential Pittsburgh after working at WYPR, the NPR/public radio station serving Baltimore, Maryland. While at WYPR, Marcus produced a live two-hour daily public affairs program called Midday that was the recipient of numerous regional and national journalism awards. Marcus brings this same energy and professionalism to Essential Pittsburgh.

Ways to Connect

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

As governments become more equipped with intelligence and technology, future wars may take place on a keyboard instead of a battlefield. In his novel Ghost FleetPeter Singer, senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC melds fact and fiction in addressing the future potential of cyber war. He recently addressed the topic as a guest of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh

In order to preserve authenticity, Singer and his team went out and talked with people who could potentially be in these roles if a cyber war were to ensue---anyone from Navy ship captains to anonymous hackers. Approximately four hundred end notes in the novel refer back to his extensive research.

Though Singer has published numerous non-fiction works, he found creating fiction, "both liberating and challenging.”

Keeping Reporting At The Center of the Newshour

Sep 30, 2015
90.5 WESA

Veteran reporter James Coomarasamy has been a BBC correspondent in Moscow, Warsaw, Paris and Washington. Some of the stories he has covered are President Obama’s 2008 election, Russian opposition to Putin and much more.

In Pittsburgh, for the Public Radio Program Directors Conference, James Coomarasamy, joined us in studio on the same day as news broke of Russian air strikes over Syria. When asked if this is an action that could bring President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin together Coomarasamy responds, “Whether it’s something that brings America or the west more broadly back together with Russia remains to be seen.”

Life Lessons From Being A Big Brother Or Big Sister

Sep 17, 2015
Big Brothers Big Sisters

Mentoring is one of the most important roles members of Big Brother Big Sister can play in the role of their “little.”  However, the “big” also benefits from the relationship. According to Tom Baker, chief community affairs officer at Big Brothers Big Sisters, “Being a ‘big’ I always say has been the second best decision of my life after marrying my wife.”

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Pennsylvania has been recognizing same-sex marriages for a little over a year. With the recent decision from the Supreme Court on the nationwide legality of gay marriage, we’ll address how their ruling could affect the nation with Pitt Law Professor Anthony Infanti.

Infanti touches on the impact of public opinion and how far we as a society have come:

"If you think about what would be a, quote on quote, strict interpretation of the constitution some people would say well go back 200 years ago and see what they would have said, the answer would have been very different than the answer we got today. … It does evolve overtime and clearly the court at some level takes into account where the country is at and where the country is willing to go." -Anthony Infanti 

Also, Pittsburgh Business Times reporter Kris Mamula discusses the upholding of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act by the Supreme Court, and we take a look at increased popularity of craft beers in Pittsburgh with food columnist Hal B. Klein and author Mark Brewer.

Ed Massery, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Since its founding in 1996 the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has worked with the city to maintain its historic parks. The conservancy is currently in the process of renovating one city park. Joining guest host Elaine Labalme to address the current state of the parks and what these green spaces mean to the city is Director of Community Projects Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Heather Sage.

Sage addresses the challenge of air quality in the Pittsburgh area in connection with parks and green spaces:

"There's countless amounts of research that tell us you know our lives are better, we're healthier, our mental health is improved, our physical health is improved if were active and living and spending time outdoors. So just spending time intentionally improving those park spaces is very directly and indirectly helping peoples health..." -Heather Sage

Also in the program, TED Talks make their yearly Pittsburgh visit at the ever-expanding local TEDx conference and Smallman Galley is a local restaurant incubator that's giving potential restaurateurs the tools and templates for success.

Nicola Jones / Flickr

These topics air Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 at noon and 8 p.m. on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between noon and 1 p.m. weekdays at (412) 246-2002.  

WWI and Climate Change

What does World War I have to do with global warming? We'll talk with David Titley, the director of Penn State's Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, who finds a parallel between the choices today's elected officials face regarding climate change, and those confronting their predecessors as the Great War loomed 100 years ago.

Russian Hackers

Russian hackers have stolen 1.2 billion internet credentials from major U.S. companies and others around the world. Tribune-Review reporter Andrew Conte joins us to look at the ramifications of this attack. Who was susceptible? Who was targeted? How do these sophisticated attacks develop?

These topics air Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014 at noon and 8 p.m. on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between noon and 1 p.m. weekdays at (412) 246-2002.

A Conversation with LeVar Burton

Steel City Con is hosting our guest LeVar Burton. LeVar Burton is an actor known chiefly for starring in "Roots" and appearing on the iconic sci-fi series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," but Burton has also hosted a PBS show called "Reading Rainbow" since 1983. "Reading Rainbow" went off air in 2009.

But in 2011, Burton and his business partner, producer Mark Wolfe acquired the "Reading Rainbow" license, promising to bring to the next generations of kids the finest reading and enrichment experiences found anywhere. "Reading Rainbow" is now a fully re-imagined app bringing the beloved brand to children of the digital age and one of the most popular and highest rated children’s products in the market.

Steel City Con

Resistance is futile. Geeks have taken over the world, according to our guest Joe Wos, executive director of the Toonseum. Joe joins us this week to explain why Pittsburgh is Geek City USA, preview the Steel City Comic Con and how the role the city played in the start of the comic-con culture movement.

House v. President Obama

Last week the House of Representatives approved a plan to file a federal lawsuit against President Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority. Pitt Law Professor David Harris joins us to address what this means from a legal and constitutional perspective.

U.S. Marines/Wikipedia

Nelson Harrison is a Pittsburgh musician who teaches jazz and played with numerous groups including the Count Basie Orchestra. He was at the March on Washington in 1963 and talks about how the march shaped who he is today.

Bob Dvorchak

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriter emeritus Bob Dvorchak talks about the University of Pittsburgh opening a new chapter in Panthers athletic history, inaugurating the school's entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference by taking on Florida State on Labor Day night at Heinz Field.

Rolling Stone Magazine / Wikipedia

One of this week’s leading media stories is the controversy surrounding the August issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The publication, known for featuring in-depth profiles of rock musicians, actors and politicians, is courting controversy with its decision to feature Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover. The decision has sparked outrage across the country and started a backlash against Rolling Stone.

David Dugdale / Flickr

A recent article in the online magazine Slate called Tipping is an Abomination calls for the end of this practice. It’s a custom that originated in Europe. It transferred across the ocean when wealthy Americans returned from the continent. At first is it was slow to catch on but now it seems tip jars are as ubiquitous as cell phones.

Darren McGee / Finger Lakes Region

Upstate New York covers a lot of territory. From the Adirondacks to the Thousand Islands there's a lot to see in the Empire State. Travel contributor Elaine Labalme scopes out the central New York region, from Cooperstown to the Finger Lakes.

“The Finger Lakes region is fairly close to western Pennsylvania and there’s lots of arts and recreation you’ll want to access there and it’s an easy trip from Pittsburgh,” says Labalme.


A strong showing of bipartisan support Thursday resulted in the U.S. Senate's vote in favor of immigration reform. This marks the most significant overhaul of the nation's immigration laws in a generation.

Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr

Last Thursday, Pittsburgh government and business officials took a trip to Cleveland to tour the Healthline—Cleveland’s rapid transit system—with the hopes of bringing back ideas for Pittsburgh’s own Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Office of Congressman Tim Murphy

Congressman Tim Murphy is working with the House Veterans Affairs Committee to pass legislation requiring veterans' hospitals to report cases of infectious diseases to state and local public health agencies.

The latest Superman movie Man of Steel opened last weekend to record box-office. The character, created by two guys from Cleveland, has been recognized as one of the leading pop culture icons.

Keana /

Pittsburgh has farmers markets in virtually every neighborhood, making it possible to visit a different market every day of the week. But being a city of neighborhoods, is it any wonder that many Pittsburghers prefer their local farmer's market? Pittsburgh Post-Gazette food editor, Bob Batz Jr. loves the atmosphere of his farmer's market in Mt. Lebanon and shares the sounds of opening day in an essay.

Journalist Tom Wilber has been reporting on hydraulic fracturing since 2008. He’s been our guest in the past to discuss the issue and help us sort fact from fiction when documentaries on the topic come out. He recently attended a screening of Gasland II, in his hometown of Binghamton, New York.

The Andy Warhol Museum /

The Andy Warhol museum's newest exhibits feature local and national artists with unique styles, perfect for the Warhol. Arts and Culture contributor Brian Siewiorek talks about what you can look forward to with this summer's artists.

Robert Morris University

Pittsburgh is one of the few major cities in the northeast that has not had an African American mayor. At present there are only two African Americans on its city council. Where will the next generation of community leaders come from?

Essential Pittsburgh has convened a political panel to disucss the  impact of recent state and regional political developments. Up for discussion this week: Governor Corbett asks for, and receives, the resignation of DCNR Chief Richard Allan, former Governor Ed Rendell jumps into the fray on the transportation plan before the House, and control of Allegheny County's Port Authority board could be at risk as a bill moves through the state Senate.    

Adam Lazarus

Forty years ago, in 1973, a week after Secretariat won the third leg in racing’s Triple Crown, another great sporting event took place. The finish of the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club is considered by some to be one of the greatest golf rounds ever played.

Tips Times / Flickr


A New York Times op-ed by Angelina Jolie disclosed her decision to have a double mastectomy after learning she carries a mutation of a gene that increases her risk of breast cancer.

Last week, researchers at Allegheny General Hospital, in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic published important findings regarding breast cancer.

Sesame Workshop

Gary Knell is the President and CEO of NPR which remains unique among news organizations. While a number of large media outfits have shuttered their foreign bureaus NPR has reporters throughout the world. However, public radio is also at a crossroads as some of its long time shows like Talk of the Nation comes to an end and Car Talk no longer produces new shows.

What will the future of NPR look like and can it stay relevant in the changing media landscape? Also, how is NPR cultivating new talent to reflect and appeal to a new generation of public radio listeners? Mr. Knell is in Pittsburgh to speak at the Americans for the Arts convention.

UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

The White House released a video on  immigration reform  featuring staffers in an attempt to push their support for the issue.  It's hoped Congress will vote on the issue before before the July 4th holiday? Six years ago President Bush urged lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass his proposed immigration reform. Instead the bill passed away.

Marcus Charleston / WESA

Celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright once drew up plans for the area occupied by Point State Park. While those plans didn’t come to fruition, the area is proud to boast two homes designed by the visionary architect – Kentuck Knob and the iconic Fallingwater. This weekend, which would have been Frank Lloyd Wright’s 146th birthday, the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, will present Shining Brow, an opera covering eleven years in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, performed on the exterior terraces of Fallingwater.

Bernard Farrell / Flickr

At one time or another you’ll see someone and say, “the face is familiar but I can’t remember the name.” For people with prosopagnosia, known as “face blindness,” the face isn’t familiar. Actor Brad Pitt, in a recent interview with Esquire magazine reported having the condition.  Dr. Marlene Behrmann of Carnegie-Mellon University is one of the leading researchers on this condition

Touring Historic Homes in Observatory Hill

May 30, 2013

Observatory Hill is a neighborhood just past Pittsburgh’s North Shore, on the eastern rim of Riverview Park. It’s named for its most prominent landmark, the Allegheny Observatory, part of the University of Pittsburgh. Like many Pittsburgh neighborhoods, the area boasts a range of architectural home styles from the first half of the 20th century. Many have been beautifully restored. Each year, members of the Observatory Hill community open their homes for a historic house tour. It's one of several in the city of Pittsburgh and serves as part community fundraiser, part history lesson and part renovation inspiration.

Matthew Paulson / Flickr

Now that summer’s here, one of the best places to go and explore the great outdoors is a national park. With so many parks in the U.S. we begin a two part look, focusing on the eastern half of the country including The Everglades, The Great Smoky Mountains, Acadia, Shenandoah, and 
 Cuyahoga Valley

Rick / Flickr

Millions of Americans suffer from Alzheimer's Disease and the number is expected to increase. Researchers at Pitt have recently confirmed a cancer drug that improves brain function in mice. Could this be a breakthrough in helping humans?