Essential Pittsburgh
6:16 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

State of the Reunion: Sharing Small Community Stories with the Nation

Al Letson is the host of the NPR program, State of the Reunion.
Credit Al Letson / alletson.com

Saturday’s in February, 90.5 WESA is airing State of the Reunion. The host, Al Letson describes the program as "telling the stories of America, one community at a time."

The State of the Reunion began after Letson watched a popular television show.

"In 2007 or 2008, I was watching American Idol with my daughter and I had never watched the program. I went to Google the next day to see who won, and the first thing that popped up was NPR's American Idol and I clicked on it thinking it was going to be a folk singing contest or something. And it took me to the website for the public radio talent quest. Which I had an idea for a show, which was basically the State of the Reunion and I entered it in. And after a long competition I won, along with Glen Washington."

One story that surprised Letson was in one of his first shows, a story of destruction in Greensburg, Kansas.

"Greensburg, Kansas was wiped out by a tornado of biblical proportions. I mean literally within 15 minutes 90% of the population was homeless. And when we went out there we saw the citizens of Greensburg came together in a way that surprised me because it is a very red county, a very red state. And some of the things that they were doing was sort of socialist, but it worked for their community, it was smart, it was what they needed to do to come together."

"The basis of what we try to do is how we end up getting a different story. I think your typical news organization goes into a place, they drop in, get the story and get out and what we try to do is we're not looking for just the story, we're looking for how that story has roots in the community."

To hear more stories of interest from small communities on State of the Reunion, at 2pm on Saturdays in February on 90.5 WESA.

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