A respected St. Louis journalist will join St. Louis Public Radio soon as host of its signature talk show.
Sarah Fenske brings more than two decades of experience as a reporter and editor, most recently as editor-in-chief of the Riverfront Times. She will begin working at the station on July 15 and begin hosting St. Louis on the Air by early August.
Fenske will serve as a host and producer and plans to hold thoughtful conversations with guests about news, arts and ideas. She replaces longtime host Don Marsh, who abruptly resigned in March after his managers challenged him on at least three occasions about his comments regarding women.
"I feel really humbled. I honestly can't believe they chose me. And I know I'm going to have a very steep learning curve," Fenske said Thursday. "And I'm excited about that. I don't think it's necessarily good to stay in the same place too long, and I think it's time for me to learn something new. Some of the best reporting in the city right now is coming out of your newsroom, and it's just exciting to me to be a part of that."
Fenske is the first woman to host the talk show full time.
“Sarah was the best candidate for the job,” Executive Producer Alex Heuer said. “She just happens to be, of course, a woman. I don’t think the incidents that [were] reported played into the selection of a woman.”
Fenske is also white. The hiring committee interviewed a diverse group of applicants that included two African Americans, and one of the finalists was an African American woman, Heuer said.
“At the end of the day, we selected who we think is the best person for that job,” Heuer said. “Diversity is certainly important to us, and it is something the hiring committee paid a lot of attention to.”
A native of Cleveland, Fenske brings strong knowledge of the St. Louis region to the program and has a great understanding of what is important to its residents, Heuer said. She spent four years as the top editor at the Riverfront Times and worked briefly at Feast Magazine immediately before that.
“We conducted a nationwide search to find a permanent host of the program, and Sarah Fenske was in our backyard,” Heuer said. “She's an excellent journalist and sounds great."
Fenke performed extremely well in a mock show that was part of the interview process, St. Louis Public Radio General Manager Tim Eby said.
“She just had a very engaging personality, asking good questions, listening well,” Eby said. “I think she has a personality that will shine through on the air, and she’s a great journalist.”
Fenske’s hiring ends three months of upheaval for the talk show, which relied on guest hosts after Marsh’s departure.
“It is a big relief to be moving forward,” Heuer said. “And I’m extremely excited about the future.”
Fenske said both her professional background and her family deeply connect her to St. Louis.
“I'm raising two little girls in the city and I'm hoping to make this city the kind of place where they will want to put down roots,” Fenske said. “I feel I've both got the perspective as an outsider. But I'm also very invested in this place.”
The St. Louis Public Radio newsroom and St. Louis on the Air are in different departments and are not managed by the same leaders.
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