Mark Nootbaar

News Director

Mark Nootbaar is a native of Illinois but moved to Pittsburgh more than 16 years ago to become the Assistant News Director at National Public Radio Charter Member Station WDUQ. As assistant News Director, Mark served as WDUQ’s lead reporter and morning assignment editor. After WDUQ was sold in 2011, Mark moved with the frequency to the new station to become the Senior News Editor where he is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the 90.5 WESA newsroom. In 2015, he was appointed News Director.

Mark has also worked in Illinois and Texas. He lives in the North Hills with his lovely wife and daughter.


Ways to Connect

Phil Pavely / Trib Total Media

More than a century ago, the fight between George Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, and Thomas Edison in West Orange New Jersey, over whose power system was better, ended with Westinghouse and alternating current as a clear winner. But research at the University of Pittsburgh has rekindled that fight.

Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

Allegheny County can no longer hold individuals based on solely on their suspected illegal immigration status, according to a settlement reached Wednesday with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The governing boards of two of the region’s public radio stations, 90.5 WESA and 91.3 WYEP, are merging into a single 501(c) 3.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pittsburgh City Council will get to take its shot at the 2016 operating and capital budgets as proposed by Mayor Bill Peduto on Monday.

“I think there are some things that council is going to move around,” said council Finance and Law Committee Chair Natalia Rudiak. “Of course it’s a matter of where are we going to add, and… where are we going to take away.”

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

  Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald had no problem winning a second, four-year term in Tuesday’s election. /

State Sen. Matt Smith's surprise announcement in May that he would leave office in June to become the head of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce has resulted in this week’s special election pitting Democrat Heather Arnet against Republican Guy Reschenthaler.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

A report commissioned by one of the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority Board members found a lack of proper internal controls and a deeper investigation is needed into the governance systems that allowed a former executive director to extort contractors for his personal gain.

“We cannot keep running this as it is,” said JRA board member Mark Pasquerilla following the release Tuesday of his report produced by the law firm of K&L Gates. “As Johnstown moves into the new century and tries to get things done, we have to represent a progressive attitude on governance.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Nestled firmly in a bill passed last week by the Pennsylvania Senate is a long list of reporting requirements that, if passed by the House and signed by the governor, would force the University of Pittsburgh and the three other state-related universities to disclose data ranging from minutes of meetings to ratios of course credits awarded to various types of students.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

McCandless residents will be tasked Monday with deciding whether to level three large retail buildings at the far, northern end of McKnight Road to revert the 27-acre slab of asphalt and concrete back into a wetland preserve.

Andrew Duthie / flickr

The jack-o-lanterns have not yet found their way to the compost pile, but the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is already thinking about getting its snow plows on the road. This year, managers and the public will be better able to keep tabs on those trucks.

Point Park University / Submitted

Point Park University is set to turn a vacant downtown hot dog shop into what it is calling a state-of-the-art learning center where students will merge their energy, talent and ambition.

The Center for Media Innovation will fill the building on the northwest corner of Wood Street and Third Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh and will feature a ground-floor multimedia studio with floor-to-ceiling windows reminiscent of New York City’s Times Square.  

KT King / flickr

A pair of Republican state representatives want to force teachers’ union representatives to also hold positions that put them in contact with students every day. The move is an effort to end what they are calling “ghost teachers.”

State Representative Jim Christiana (R- Beaver) is upset that there are three individuals that are getting all of the benefits of being an active teacher in the Pittsburgh Public School district that report to the union office every day rather than to a school building.

When Pittsburgh's Bill Peduto joined the mayors of 17 other cities in signing a letter to President Barack Obama last month that offers to harbor more Syrian refugees in the United States, he defended that welcome as "just the right thing to do."

City of Pittsburgh Council District 9

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess is rolling out a few more details on his plan to preserve and expand affordable housing in the city’s East End.

“You have to rebuild schools, make the community safe, rebuild housing and rebuild social service entities all at the same time in the parts of the community on the edge, next to strength,” Burgess said.

Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

Mary Beth Thakar is so passionate about getting the word out about Lyme disease, she wrote a song about it. Well, she re-wrote the lyrics to the tune “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”

The first verse goes like this: I know an old lady who was bit by a tick...or some kind of bug...maybe a tick. She might get sick.

Thakar was just diagnosed with Lyme this year, but she thinks she might have become infected about five years ago.

daveynin / flickr

While he was in Bellagio, Italy last week, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto signed on to a pledge to commit at least 10 percent of the city’s operating and capital budgets to making Pittsburgh a more resilient city, a move that Pittsburgh Chief Resilience officer Grant Ervin said is extremely timely.

“Look, for example, at some of the challenges that are being faced right now in South Carolina,” said Ervin, referring to the massive flooding that has displaced hundreds of residents.  “How do you clean up quickly and then how do you become a stronger city following the event?”

Upupa4me / flickr

A problem that has cost thousands of Pennsylvanians hundreds, if not thousands, of dollar has the state investigating.

Insurance holders think they have found an in-network provider for a specific procedure, but a physician, specialist or contractor who is out-of-network is actually helping to provide the care. The result is a bill that the patient thought would be $50 dollars, turns into a bill for much more.

It’s called surprise balance billing.

Turnpike's 75th Celebrated By State Museum

Oct 2, 2015
Pennsylvania Turnpike

Seventy-five years ago this week the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened from Carlisle to Irwin at a cost of one cent per mile and the rates have been increasing ever since. 

“The bargain rate that was established for a round-trip between Carlisle and Irwin was $2.25,” said Curtis Miner, Senior Curator of History, State Museum of Pennsylvania. A one-way trip from Carlisle to Irwin would cost $19.40 cash and $13.78 with an EZ pass.

To mark the anniversary Turnpike officials organized a vintage car cruise and the state museum of Pennsylvania has mounted and exhibit chronicling the roadway that would be widely duplicated not long after its opening.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

PNC’s 800,000 square foot office building in downtown Pittsburgh is being hailed by locals not only as one of the greenest buildings in the world but also as a sign of great things to come for the region.

The 33-story "Tower at PNC Plaza" at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Wood St. was designed from the beginning to receive the highest level of LEED certification. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Along with national bragging rights, winning the designation of Hockeyville USA brings with it $150,000 dollars to upgrade the local hockey venue, which in the case of the 65-year-old Cambria County War Memorial Arena was much needed.

“There have been probably been about 20 plus years or so since any real substantial upgrades have happened at this building,” said Johnstown Tomahawks Director of Media and Communications, Chad Mearns. “These improvements came at a very crucial time for this city, at a crucial time for this building. Pretty much any direction that you look, even if you don’t realize it, you see something that has some sort of change, some sort of improvement this summer.”

Triumph Books

After being named Kraft's first-ever Hockeyville USA, the Cambria Country War Memorial Arena will see the return of a decidedly different hockey legend. 

While Dave Hanson enjoyed a 10-year career as a professional hockey player, he is perhaps most well known for playing one of the Hanson brothers from the classic 1977 sports comedy Slap Shot.

Filmed in Johnstown, Slap Shot was based on the Johnstown Jets in an era where violence was a major selling point for many minor hockey leagues. Hanson fit nicely into the league.

Bottleworks Celebrates And Supports Arts In Johnstown

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

Like so many other industrial buildings in rust belt cities, the Tulip Bottling Company and Gainers Brewery buildings in Johnstown’s historic Cambria City neighborhood had fallen into disuse after the companies that once employed hundreds dried up and closed their doors.  But the buildings have been given new life as the blue color neighborhood is transformed into the city’s art and cultural district.

“Throughout the year we offer exhibits, classes, lectures, anything art-related,” said Bottleworks Executive Director Angela Rizzo of the buildings that now also house nine local artists in rented studio space.  “Our mission is to provide opportunities for artists and audiences to experience the arts.”

Remembering The Johnstown Flood

Sep 28, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 fm WESA

The residents of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s were no strangers to floods.  Sitting at the confluence of the Stonycreek River and the Little Conemaugh River, the booming city often went under water.

An eight-inch rain that passed through the region in May of 1889 had submerged much of downtown Johnstown under several feet of water but people were coping, however the South Fork Dam, some 14 miles miles up the Conemaugh Valley was about to let loose, releasing millions of gallons of water that would smash everything in its path.

Lock the Gate Alliance / flickr

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that landowners and developers filed against individuals and environmental groups who have been fighting fracking near the Mars Area School District complex.

Cotholic Diocese of Pittsburgh

Thousands of Pittsburghers will travel to Philadelphia this week to see Pope Francis including Pittsburgh Catholic Dioceses Bishop David Zubik. 

The papal visit will likely occur surprise-free, Zubik said. Unlike Pope Paul II -- known as a philosopher -- and Pope Benedict XVI, who was a theologian, Pope Francis has built his reign on the pastoral relationship between the Vatican and the common men and women it serves.

Pittsburgh Public Schools /

Middle and high school students from the Wilkinsburg Public School District could be going to Pittsburgh schools next year. 

In a joint move Wednesday night, the Wilkinsburg district announced it will close its grades 7-12 school building and send those 200-plus students to Westinghouse 6-12 next year.  The plan is still pending approval next month by the boards of both districts.

Keith Srakocic / AP Images

“A whirlwind” is how Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay describes his first year in the position. McLay marked the one-year anniversary of being appointed to the post Sept. 15, 2015. 

McLay told Essential Pittsburgh he was hired with some specific objectives; Implement data-driven community-oriented policing, start to repair police-community relations, and improve moral while restoring faith in the bureau’s internal leadership systems.

McLay said he was greeted with a positive attitude when he went to a Fraternal Order of Police picnic in the city between the time he was named and his first day on the job.

Alberto G / flickr

Throughout Pennsylvania parents of elementary and middle school students are opening their mailboxes today to find standardized test scores for their children and their schools that are much lower than they were last year.  The drop has been nearly unanimously attributed to a more difficult set of tests that are more closely linked to Pennsylvania’s Common Core standards than they have been in the past.

“I would caution any parent from over interpreting these scores…this is a new baseline,” Heidi Ondek, Superintendent, Quaker Valley School District said.  “It may take years before this is a reliable enough measure to base too much on instructionally.”

Flight 93 Memorial Grows on 14th Anniversary

Sep 11, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 FM WESA

The mother of Flight 93 victim Deora Bodley walked through the new visitor center this week before the public was invited in and described it as a “very moving rendition of the story of what happened September 11th.”   

Debby Borza’s daughter Deora was a college student on September 11, 2001.  She was traveling back home to San Francisco from New Jersey where she had been visiting friends, when the plane was hijacked as part of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. 

Simon & Schuster

We take for granted that we can jump on a plane and get to every corner of the globe in a mater of hours, but there was once a time when there was no such thing as a flying machine.

Pittsburgh native and Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough has recently published the book The Wright Brothers looking at the lives of the two men most responsible for the invention of flight.

We all know the Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics from Dayton who invented the airplane said McCullough in an interview with Essential Pittsburgh leading up to his sold-out lecture in Pittsburgh.