90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh airs weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. and is repeated at 8 p.m.
Paul Guggenheimer

Essential Pittsburgh is a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA dedicated to developing a deep, ongoing exploration of critical issues affecting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, as well as featuring community leaders and newsmakers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, government and education.

  • Call (412) 246-2002 from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays to participate in the discussion.
  • Dial (412) 256-8783 to leave a question or comment before or after the show.
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  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
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Essential Pittsburgh
2:14 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Storytelling in the Modern Age

Radio host and producer Joe McHugh talks about storytelling in the modern age.
Credit Joe McHugh / American Family Stories


What happens when modernity meets storytelling?

Storyteller and story collector Joe McHugh, producer of The Telling Takes Us Home, a Celebration of American Family Stories, travels the country meeting people and gathering their stories.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:23 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Punk Rock Humanitarian Billy Bragg Returns to Pittsburgh

Credit Kris Krug / Wikipedia

Punk rocker and humanitarian protest lyricist Billy Bragg returns to Pittsburgh after sixteen years.

His influences derive from 1960’s Motown music and the civil rights movement to the arrival of punk rock in Britain.

Following the 1984 United Kingdom miner strike, Bragg began writing and performing protest songs expressing the discord in ideologies between working citizens and upper class public officials. He returned to Pittsburgh to play at Mr. Smalls theater on October 1.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:17 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Rediscovering Pittsburgh's Ragtime Roots

Pittsburgh's rich jazz history documented here on Centre Avenue.
Credit Boring Pittsburgh / flickr

Recently rediscovered compositions of early 20th century ragtime tunes will be presented by the Allegheny City Ragtime Orchestra as tribute to the rich musical history of Pittsburgh.

Noted pianist and conductor Tom Roberts says it took some digging to piece together Pittsburgh’s jazz history between Stephen Foster and bebop, but results reveal a wealth of contributions by local musicians.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:09 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Fall Festivals Lineup Includes Fire Truck Pull & Apple Pancakes

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme shares five of her favorite upcoming fall festivals.
Credit Sophia Greco / flickr

As autumn arrives and trees transform their tint, fall festivals appear throughout the region. Travel contributor Elaine Labalme shares some of her favorites of the season.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:11 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

How to Address Climate Change In Light of New Reports

More conclusive findings from the IPCC, what can be done at this point?
Credit Brian Chan / Flickr

According to a more report conclusive from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and internationally renowned climatologist, Dr. Raymond Bradley, global temperatures have risen rapidly in the last 100 years, especially in the last 50 years. Experiments have also proven that greenhouse gases do create more heat in the atmosphere.

In addition to raising temperatures, greenhouse gases change precipitation patterns, meaning some areas that usually have heavy rainfall experience dry spells, and other areas get extremely heavy rainfall. Bradley says these effects will continue to occur more often if greenhouse gases continue to fill the atmosphere.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:02 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

The High Cost of Medical Illiteracy

When patients and health care providers don't communicate properly, the health and financial costs can be high
Credit Andye / Flickr

Roughly 90% of Americans are medically illiterate to some degree, according to Kevin Progar, Project Manager of the Regional Health Literacy Coalition.

This low level is a costly problem for patients and healthcare providers. Consumers accept their doctor’s orders without asking for a second opinion or truly understanding what the doctor has said. In some cases patients take their medication incorrectly or do not take the prescribed medication at all (because they do not understand how to do so properly). Progar says $230 billion is wasted annually in the United States because of medical illiteracy. How can we fix this problem?

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:54 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

"En Plein Air" - Painting the Town in Mt. Lebanon

One of the plein air paintings created by David Csont.
Credit David Csont / Mt. Lebanon Plen Air

This Monday marked the beginning of the week long 2nd Annual Plein Air Mt. Lebanon Arts Festival where twenty-five artists from around the country are quite literally painting the town.

The festival gets its name from the French expression “en plein air”, meaning “in the open air” and describes the style of painting outdoors. Plein air painting began in the impressionist era led by famous artists such as Claude Monet and Edouard Manet who took their easels, brushes and tubes of paint into nature.

Linda Csont, co-organizer of the art festival and competition says last year’s event was inspired by a similar plein air painting exhibition one summer in Easton, Maryland, which her husband competed in. Their goal was to bring plein air painting to Pittsburgh to showcase the area of Mt. Lebanon and raise funds for the town’s art programs. Artists paint scenes, architecture, fall foliage and people from all around the city, rain or shine. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:33 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Sen. Casey on Looming Government Shutdown

Senator Bob Casey talks about the looming government shutdown
Credit Wikipedia

In the early hours of Sunday morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would continue to fund the federal government.

Essentially this bill does three things: it temporarily keeps government operations funded through the middle of December, delays the affordable care act for a year and it repeals a tax on medical devices as part of the health care law.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:50 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Corporations May be the Bridge Between Government and Infrastructure

New hope for Pennsylvania's roads and bridges
Credit Thiopene / 90.5 WESA

After the House failed to pass a plan to pay for roads, bridges and mass transit last June, there is renewed speculation about another possible vote on a transportation funding proposal.

Renewed interest in lobbying efforts stems from the imposed weight limits on over 1,000 bridges in Pennsylvania.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:31 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Duck, Duck, “DUCK!” - The History of the Rubber Ducky

The 40 foot tall rubber duck created by artist Florentijn Hoffman, will continue to float at Point State Park until October 20th, 2013.
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

If you are a resident of Pittsburgh, you have undoubtedly heard about the enormous 40 foot tall rubber duck that is now floating majestically in the river. But where does this iconic bath toy originate from?

According to Joe Wos, Executive Director of the Toonseum, it goes all the way back to the late 1800’s, when regular Saturday baths first became popular. In order to be clean for church on Sunday, the entire family would gather to take their one and only bath of the week. Wos says dips in the tub went from oldest to youngest, Dad went first, then oldest brother, down to the youngest child.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:15 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

The Death of a Steelers Legend

Member of the Steel Curtain, LC Greenwood, died Sunday at the age of 67.
Credit United States Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christina M. Shaw

The Steel Curtain was considered the key to the Steelers success in the 1970s and on Sunday the third of the four legendary defensive lineman died. LC “Hollywood Bags” Greenwood died at the age of 67. The cause of death was kidney failure, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:05 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Public Forum: Addressing Your Questions On the Affordable Care Act

From left to right: Rachel Dingfelder, Dr. Christopher Hughes, Erin Gill-Ninehouser, Titus North
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

On Tuesday October 1st the health insurance exchange, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, opens for enrollment. While the various insurance plans and stipulations can be confusing, there are many resources available to offer assistance.

On Thursday September 26th, representatives from various health access groups came together at the Community Broadcast Center to talk about how the new healthcare & insurance plans will affect individuals and businesses. Listen to an edited broadcast of the forum on Tuesday October 1 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:44 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Friday Re-broadcast: The Black Middle Class Experience in Pittsburgh

Representatives from The Urban League, Pittsburgh City Council and UPMC weigh in on Pittsburgh's African American Middle Class
Credit Ryan Lowe / 90.5 WESA

On Wednesday, March 20th 90.5 WESA’s daily public affairs program Essential Pittsburgh hosted a Public Forum on the Black Middle Class in Pittsburgh.

Inspired by a Pittsburgh Quarterly article by journalist Ben Schmitt, the forum addressed the history and current experiences of the Black middle class in Pittsburgh. Listen to a broadcast of the forum Friday at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Essential Pittsburgh
2:49 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Seldom Used Parking Ordinance Causes Confusion in Squirrel Hill

How is it possible to get a ticket for parking in ones own driveway?
Credit Nothlit / Flickr

After living in his Squirrel Hill home for 18 years, Dr. Jeff Freedman was surprised to receive a letter from the Bureau of Building Inspection asking him to acquire a Certificate of Occupancy.

When he visited the specified location said to provide the certificate, he was told the document was unattainable. Thanks to a 1958 ordinance in Squirrel Hill, many residents are finding parking tickets on vehicles parked in their own driveways.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:42 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Geeks on a Mission: CMU Grads Engage in Technological Humanitarian Work

Dr. Alex Hills talks about the challenges and rewards of bringing technological systems to NGOs in developing nations.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5WESA

At the Carnegie Mellon University Technology Consulting in the Global Community program, students are matched with worldwide non-governmental organizations to assist these humanitarian groups with technological support.

Dr. Alexander Hills, senior adviser for the program, has compiled a book of five essays by these young professionals. The book Geeks on a Mission: In Their Own Words, reflects the students amazing experiences and the impact on the global communities they aid.

“Yes, we help people and that’s a good thing, but what it does for the student is really, really impressive,” he says.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:23 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Pirates Post-Season Travel

From the home of Coca-Cola to the lightest fluffiest pancakes in the country. Find out where to visit while on the road with the Pirates.
Credit Cavalier92 / Flickr

After more than two decades, the Pirates will finally play in the post-season.

Travel contributor Elaine Labalme shares her favorite hangouts in potential Pirates playoff cities.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:45 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Adjuncts: Wage & Benefit Disparities In Higher Education

Discussing pay and benefits for adjunct professors
Credit Earlham College / Flickr

The story of Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor at Duquesne University has gone viral and it’s sparked a debate about fair compensation for adjuncts.

Dan Kovalick, senior associate general counsel of the United Steelworkers (the union currently seeking to organize adjunct instructors at Duquesne) who wrote the op-ed piece believes that the adjuncts should have an increase in pay and should be entitled to benefits. Kovalick argues that, with heads of Universities making six-figure salaries and in some cases millions of dollars, teachers should be able to get an increase in compensation.

He also points out that parents of students, are spending tens of thousands of dollars on their child’s tuition and seeing that their child’s teachers are not making a livable wage.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:04 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Innovative Concussion Evaluation Technology

Evaluating concussions on the field with an iPad app
Credit GENuine 1986 / Flickr

According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 2 million people each year suffer from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.

In the sports world, concussions have been in the limelight as athletes come forward with reports of lasting affects from the brain injuries they sustained while playing. As a result, the sports community is becoming increasingly aware of how important it is to properly treat a concussion and gather as much data as possible close to the time of impact.

C3 Logix is a new, innovative concussion evaluation technology that provides on site data collection at the time of injury, to better aid physicians in diagnosis and treatment. The program is loaded into an iPad and before the season starts, athletes perform a series of neurocognitive tests. The program tracks the athlete’s visual reflexes and their ability to focus on moving objects. Results of these baseline tests can then be compared to data logged in incident reports at the time of suspected brain injury.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:09 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

The Business of Pharmacies Expand & Evolve

Pharmacies now offer more than prescriptions. They often have small medical centers and administer immunizations and flu shots.
Credit Assia R / flickr

No longer are pharmacies the corner soda shop drug stores of the past.

Modern pharmacies and drug store chains have expanded their role from prescription outlets to alternative venues for medical treatment.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris, many drug stores are going above and beyond their traditional roles by offering immunizations and flu shots for all ages throughout the year. She says because they deal with prescriptions daily, pharmacists often know more about the latest medical trends than doctors and can be a valuable partner for consumer health.

Essential Pittsburgh
4:05 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Discussing Municipal Bans on Fracking

Lynn Anderson, left, and Susie Beiersdorfer oppose fracking in Youngstown, Ohio
Credit Natasha Khan / PublicSource

In 2010, Pittsburgh was the first municipality in the nation to institute a ban on hydraulic fracturing. Many others have followed suit, including the boroughs of Baldwin, West Homestead and Wilkinsburg, as well as State College, PA.

Now citizens in Youngstown, Ohio are looking at the structure of Pittsburgh’s fracking ban in shaping a their own ordinances. PublicSource reporter Natasha Khan recently wrote about the ongoing debates in Youngstown as it pertains to jobs and environmental concerns.

Opponents of the Youngstown ban say it’s unconstitutional for a municipality to regulate beyond state and federal law. Similar objections have also been raised in Pennsylvania.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:52 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

2013 Carnegie International Explores a Sense of Place & Play

Exploring the not so serious side of the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie International
Credit Carnegie International

Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the world’s longest-running exhibitions of contemporary art. The International has become Pittsburgh’s premiere event for groundbreaking modern art. The 2013 Carnegie International marks the first time three curators have been chosen.

Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski were tasked with finding art which portrays a sense of place. One of the first things they all discussed was how an exhibition of international ambition, can have its roots in Pittsburgh, in a meaningful way.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:47 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Increase In Pennsylvania’s Poverty Rate

While PA's poverty level has increased slightly, Pittsburgh is holding steady.
Credit marsmettnn / flickr

Despite being below the national average of 15 percent, the Census Bureau recently reported a slight increase in Pennsylvania’s Poverty rate. Up from 13.8 in 2012 to 13.9 in 2013, almost 1.8 million Pennsylvanians are considered to be living below the poverty line.

A tenth of a percent may seem paltry but a retrospective look at the past twelve years determines a full 3 percent increase. Associated Press reporter Kevin Begos believes that the economy just isn’t growing the way people hoped it would. There simply aren’t enough jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people looking to support themselves and their families.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:30 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Former NFL Players Not Receiving Their Due for Appearances in NFL Films

Bob Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Emeritus
Credit Bob Dvorchak / Sports n'at

When a blockbuster films appears on television, the actors receive royalties for their appearances, the same goes for TV show reruns.

One would think the same goes for former football players who appear in NFL films. Video clips of the “Immaculate Reception,” have run countless times on television, yet Franco Harris and John Fuqua have never seen payment for the replays.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:16 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Paywall Could Offer Opportunity For More In-depth Content

What's the future of digital newspaper content?
Credit Mal810 / Flickr

On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced plans to charge a $10 monthly access fee to users of its digital content. The Post-Gazette joins a growing number of newspapers to put their content behind a paywall.

Point Park University Director of Communications, Steve Hallock says people in the newspaper industry have been trying for years to figure out how to monetize their internet content. In other markets, such as Toledo, OH, paywalls have been successful. But with Pittsburgh’s competitive newspaper market Hallock says the Post-Gazette is a test case to watch.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:45 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Financial Aid Takes a Surprising Shift

What does "merit aid" really mean today?
Credit Sal Falko / Flickr

Over the past several years, there’s been a shift in the financial aid industry. According to ProPublica reporter Marian Wang, a growing share of financial aid has been given to the highest income quartile, with less offered to those in the lowest income quartile.

Wang says financial aid has “shifted to being more about the schools needs and their enrollment goals than necessarily meeting the needs of the students.”

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