St. Louis on the Air | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis on the Air

Noon-1 p.m. and 10-11 p.m. (repeat) Monday-Friday

St. Louis on the Air creates a unique space where guests and listeners can share ideas and opinions with respect and honesty. Whether exploring issues and challenges confronting our region, discussing the latest innovations in science and technology, taking a closer look at our history or talking with authors, artists and musicians, St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region.

The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily WoodburyEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

St. Louis on the Air is sponsored by The Hammond Institute for Free Enterprise.

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Tuesday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

The underground pop-up restaurant scene is growing across the nation, and St. Louis is no exception. They’re a way for amateur chefs to experiment with selling their cuisine without the commitment of daily catering and operating from a brick-and-mortar shop.

St. Louis on the Air’s latest Sound Bites segment with Sauce Magazine will explore how and why people start their own pop-ups, and how patrons can find out about them. Joining Tuesday’s program will be Sauce managing editor Heather Hughes – and pop-up owners Chelsie Hellige of Spirit House and Steven Pursley of Ramen x Rui

The first-ever Sans Bar STL event drew a large crowd to the Third Degree Art Factory, despite a conscientious lack of booze.
Meredith Marquardt

From its early Lemp Brewery days to the Schlafly era and beyond, St. Louis has earned its reputation as a drinking town. But lately the city is also seeing a nightlife trend that doesn’t involve alcohol at all.

Among other beverage and restaurant industry professionals, the people behind WellBeing Brewing, a locally based company that exclusively makes non-alcoholic craft beer, have helped to catalyze the movement. So has the Wellness Council of St. Louis, which is affiliated with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and oversees Sans Bar STL.

The inaugural Sans Bar STL event early this year drew about 300 people to Third Degree Glass Factory for a night of music, glassblowing, tarot card readings and handcrafted alcohol-free drinks.

Jamaiyah Redmond and Chloé Guerin, both Clayton High School juniors, while listening to classmates call for school safety improvements Friday, Feb. 23, 2018.
File Photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

During the first week of the school year, St. Louis Public Schools didn’t just deal with summer learning loss – it started classes without several of its students.

“We have a 7-year-old who will not be starting school today,” said the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s Mary Warnecke, who spoke with reporters on Tuesday. “We have a 10-year-old murdered not that long ago, in the city of St. Louis, who will not be starting school today. We have a 2-year-old murdered on Ferris not so long ago. We have a 3-year-old who was murdered on Michigan not so long ago.”

EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

The chancellor is the chief academic, administrative, and budgetary officer of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Tom George has held the post for the past 16 years. He is retiring Sept. 1.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with George about what he hopes to see in the university’s future.

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” over the noon hour Monday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske will convene our monthly Legal Roundtable.

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Mo Dehghani looked at Missouri University of Science and Technology (then known as the University of Missouri-Rolla) when he was picking a school for his undergraduate education.

While he decided to go to Louisiana State University, Missouri S&T’s commitment to science and technology stayed in his mind. Now, he’s ended up in Rolla as the school’s chancellor.

“When I got the call for the position, I was over the moon,” Dehghani said.

Journalists Trevor Aaronson (at left) and Danny Wicentowski both joined Wednesday's talk show.
Trevor Aaronson & St. Louis Public Radio

"How has the death of Michael Brown Jr. impacted your life?" That's among the questions that the St. Louis Public Radio community and people throughout the region have been pondering in recent days in light of the five-year anniversary of the Ferguson protests. The answers are myriad, but Olajuwon Davis’ certainly stands out in the crowd: He’s spent most of his life since that time in prison.

How and why Davis’ life changed so drastically in the wake of Brown’s death is the focus of a newly published report by the Riverfront Times’ Danny Wicentowski. In it, Wicentowski details everything from the moment Davis, then a member of the New Black Panther Party, first became active in Ferguson to his arrest and conviction in an FBI sting for “planning and conspiring to ignite explosive devices” among other charges. Prosecutors would allege he and his alleged co-conspirator Brandon Baldwin sought to blow up the Gateway Arch.

(Aug. 14, 2019) Veronica Johnson (at left) and Maalik Shakoor joined Wednesday's talk show to discuss St. Louis' school desegregation and busing program. Hope Rias joined the conversation by phone.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris clashed in the Democratic presidential debates over the issue of busing, viewers may have thought of these programs as being in the past. That’s not the case in St. Louis — the city has the longest-running and largest desegregation program in the nation. 

Now in its 38th year, the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation has bused more than 70,000 inner-city black students to predominantly white schools in the suburbs – and has also allowed white students living in the county to attend magnet schools in the city. It entails long bus rides as well as necessary but not always comfortable adjustment to new social circles.

Local music artist Tonina Saputo joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about her musical journey locally and beyond.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Tonina Saputo is among the rising names in the local music scene, but her reach is far and wide. The St. Louis-raised musician has made the world her stage, performing throughout Europe and singing in both English and Spanish. Former President Barack Obama is a fan himself and placed her song “Historia De un Amor” on his best-of-the-year roundup. 

But for Saputo, it's her album that dropped in May that feels like the truest expression of herself as a musician. “St. Lost” was inspired by her time away from the Gateway City and represents a split from the producer-manager who gave her a big break.

August 13, 2019 Beth O'Malley Lindsay Toler
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch unveiled a new online comment system. Declaring its old Facebook-based model broken, the daily newspaper explained that community moderation and a scoring system for commenters would give greater prominence to readers who “consistently drive positive conversation.”

On Tuesday, Post-Dispatch reader engagement editor Beth O’Malley joined us in studio on St. Louis on the Air to discuss how the new system is working and the difficulties of keeping online conversation civil in an angry age. Lindsay Toler, the digital engagement producer for St. Louis Public Radio, also joined the show. 

David Patterson Silver Wolf (at left) and Rachel Winograd joined Monday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

A few weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some positive statistics related to the ongoing opioid crisis. While drug overdose deaths in the U.S. had reached record levels in 2017, the nation saw an overall 4.2% decline in 2018.

In Missouri, though, the 2018 outcomes were far less hopeful – despite an influx of $65 million in federal funds aimed at addressing the crisis over the past few years. Provisional data for the state indicates a 16% increase in drug overdose deaths over the course of last year.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with two local experts about where Missouri should go from here in light of the discouraging statistics.

Playwright Shannon Geier (at left) is headlining the 2019 St. Lou Fringe Festival with her play "Check In." Matthew Kerns is the executive director of the festival.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

To describe the St. Lou Fringe Festival as a theater event is something of a misnomer. There are plenty of actors, playwrights and other theater professsionals involved in the annual six-day-long extravaganza that gets underway this Tuesday. But there are also poets, dancers, performance artists, sculptors, burlesque performers and improv acts.

This year’s offerings also run the gamut with pieces by established and experienced playwrights as well as emerging artists and previously untested work. That’s by design, according to organizer Matthew Kerns.

“The idea of a fringe festival is that it is uncensored and unjuried,” the executive director of the festival told St. Louis on the Air host Sarah Fenske on Monday’s show. “We offer opportunity where opportunity is not given anywhere else in this region. So if you have a piece of work that you are passionate about that is very experimental, we are the place for that to be done.”

Donald Hutson is one of hundreds of people who have overdosed while in state prisons since May 2017, according to Missouri Department of Corrections records.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Destini Hutson spent much of her childhood picturing what life would be like when her dad came home.

Over time, her plans turned to the practical: teach him how to use an iPhone, help him find a job, go to Chick-fil-A together.

“‘It’s a lot that you’re going to have to learn,’” Hutson told her dad, Donald, who went to prison in 1997 when she was still a baby.

Those plans came to a halt last September, when Donald Hutson died of a drug overdose at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific. He’s one of more than 430 inmates who have overdosed in state prisons since May 2017, according to internal data from the Missouri Department of Corrections. While there are many ways drugs are smuggled into prisons, DOC employees say internal corruption is a key part of the problem.

Cheeraz Gormon is a poet, storyteller, award-winning advertising copywriter and St. Louis native.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the eve of the five-year anniversary of Michael Brown Jr.’s death, St. Louis Public Radio and poet and activist Cheeraz Gormon presented a live storytelling event featuring speakers whose lives changed drastically after Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson. The stories featured in this edition of St. Louis on the Air include reflections on race, violence and community trauma.

Hear highlights from the event:

EVIE HEMPHILL | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Last week, St. Louis attorney Michael Kahn won over a federal jury in a case looking at whether the Katy Perry song "Dark Horse" infringed on the copyright of a 2009 rap song “Joyful Noise” by St. Louis artist Marcus Gray, who is known as Flame. The jury decided that Katy Perry and Capitol Records must pay Gray $2.78 million in damages.

“There’s an old joke [that] when you say, ‘This is not about money, it’s about principle,’ it’s really about money,” said Kahn. “But for our clients, it was really about principle. They almost didn’t care about the money part of it. They felt that they’d been mistreated, and they wanted their day in court.”

Francis Lam is the host of The Splendid Table.
Melanie Dunea

As the host of "The Splendid Table," a cookbook editor and food journalist, Francis Lam has explored cuisines from all around the world. That may be one reason he’s not at all disconcerted by St. Louis’ method of slicing bagels as if they were loaves of bread.

“They’re like bagel chips, but not toasted,” he said, laughing, during a conversation with St. Louis on the Air that aired Thursday. “I get it!”

And when you put it that way, really, wasn’t the whole “St. Louis-style" bagel controversy earlier this year just a bit overblown? Lam, a New Jersey native who lives in New York City, certainly thinks so.

Twenty-one-year-old filmmaker and Webster University student Tanner Craft (at right), who was diagnosed with autism as a young child, joined Wednesday's talk show alongside his mother, Tanya Craft.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The first few minutes of Tanner Craft’s new film pair a seemingly everyday scene – a mother and her young son at a doctor’s office – with an unsettling soundtrack. There’s a looming, ongoing hum audible beneath the dialogue as the physician tells the mother that her son has autism spectrum disorder.

“It’s a developmental disorder,” the doctor says, the mother appearing overwhelmed. “It impairs his ability to communicate and interact with others.”

But “Diagnosis,” which Craft wrote, directed and produced, doesn’t stop there. The short film goes on to highlight a mother-son journey from early diagnosis, to learning more about autism and existing resources, to finding new ways to connect with one another and thrive.

(L-R) Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano, Valeria Rodriguez and Lindsay Newton joined Wednesday's "St. Louis on the Air."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis has the smallest Latino community of the nation's 25 largest metro areas — the only one that's less than 5% Latino. So how do local Latinos deal with being not just a minority, but one that’s dwarfed in size by other communities? And how do they straddle the Spanish-speaking worlds of their parents and grandparents in addition to life in the Midwest? 

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske delved into ways that St. Louis’ Latino community continues to grow and influence the city – artistically and otherwise.

Joining the program were Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano, business counselor at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis and co-host of the bilingual Auténtico Podcast, and Valeria Rodriguez, a Dominican-American multidisciplinary artist and member of the Latinx Arts Network – a collective of local artists. 

Vanilla, Chocolate, Pink and Yellow Conchas; cookies.
Alexis Moore | St. Louis Public Radio

For an hour and a half every Wednesday, the International Institute of St. Louis transforms into a restaurant. By partnering with a rotating list of local immigrant caterers, the institute continues its legacy of supporting immigrant and refugee populations. 

On July 24, La Fuente, a Mexican food caterer, was at the helm, featuring staples such as tamales and pan dulce. Common wisdom says come early, and it was clear why: One line formed, and then another, until much was sold out. 

Aug. 6 2019 Tylea Wilson (at left), poet AnnaLise Cason, and Susan Colangelo, St. Louis Story Stitchers CEO.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Young adults throughout the St. Louis area make up the St. Louis Story Stitchers artists collective. They aim to showcase the region’s culture through performance art, and they work to curb gun violence, which many members have grown up with.

Tylea Wilson is a storyteller with the group, and she regularly performs her poem, “Guardian Angel,” about a friend who was shot and killed.

Nick Bognar from iNDO, located in St. Louis' Botanical Heights neighborhood.
Michelle Volansky | Sauce Magazine

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with our partners from Sauce Magazine about the latest additions to the St. Louis region’s food-and-beverage community. 

Joining her for the discussion were Catherine Klene and Matt Sorrell, managing editor and staff writer, respectively.

August 5, 2019 Dr. Sam Page
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Last Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s office dropped a bombshell: a sentencing memo that offered an extraordinary glimpse of an unfiltered Steve Stenger. Captured on federal surveillance, the then-St. Louis County executive revealed himself as profane, vindictive and utterly mercenary.

But for Dr. Sam Page, who replaced Stenger as county executive on the very day that his criminal indictment became public in April, the sentencing memo’s look at the real Steve Stenger was nothing new. Once a Stenger ally, Page soured on his fellow Democrat years before his downfall — and said he wasn’t surprised by the details revealed in the memo.

Longtime Quincy Senior High School music director Kathi Dooley talked about her experience on Netflix's "Queer Eye" show on "St. Louis on the Air."
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Kathi Dooley was set in her ways when it came to her looks and career; she knew what she loved and stuck with it. The longtime music director at Quincy Senior High School has a passion for helping students expand their artistic horizons, all while rocking the same hairstyle for more than 40 years. 

But all that changed last October when a former student of Dooley’s made a return to Quincy, Illinois, to switch up her routine. Jonathan Van Ness is a 2004 graduate of Quincy Senior High School, and he pitched for his beloved teacher, and her late 1970s mullet, to be featured on the hit Netflix series “Queer Eye.”

August 2, 2019 Nicholas Phillips (at left) of Missouri Lawyers Weekly and Amy Breihan, director of the MacArthur Justice Center.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis on the Air

Two years ago, a pair of public interest law firms filed suit against the state of Missouri, saying it had failed to provide “meaningful” legal representation for indigent defendants, as the U.S. Constitution requires. Because the public defenders’ office is overworked and underfunded, the ACLU and the MacArthur Justice Center argued, poor people charged with a crime are denied their constitutional rights.

The case has seen a number of twists and turns — and a great deal of drama in recent weeks. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, we spoke with Amy Breihan, director of the MacArthur Justice Center, and Nicholas Phillips, a reporter at Missouri Lawyers Weekly, about these developments.

For decades, Missouri has ranked near the bottom of public defender funding. The state is 49th of the 50 states in per capita indigent defense spending, Breihan said. 

The average base pay for a preschool teacher in Missouri is $26,307 per year, 9% below the national average, according to Glassdoor.
Joel Martinez | Department of Defense

Paying for day care is one of the largest expenses per month for families. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of infant child care in Missouri is about $800 a month.

Protester Edward Crawford throws a tear gas cannister in Ferguson in August 2014. This photo is part of the "In Focus: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photographs" exhibit at the Missouri History Museum.
Robert Cohen | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

This Saturday, the Missouri History Museum opens two new exhibits: “Pulitzer Prize Photographs” and “In Focus: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photographs.” The first is a traveling exhibit from the Newseum in Washington, displaying the most comprehensive collection of Pulitzer-winning photos ever assembled. The second provides a companion exhibit that shows off the work of local photojournalists.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Jody Sowell, director of exhibitions and research for the Missouri Historical Society, and Robert Cohen, a staff photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about what the new shows entail. 

Sahara Sista SOLS (at left) served as one of the coaches of St. Louis' team, which includes recent high school graduates Zack Lesmeister (center) and Keana Fox as well as four other teens.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

A group of local teens made St. Louis proud earlier this month when they earned first place at the 2019 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in Las Vegas.

Selected through a months-long process under the umbrella of local nonprofit organization UrbArts, the six budding poets won the competition July 20. The festival draws about 500 young poets, their mentors, and leading artists and cultural workers each year for arts education, artistic expression and civic engagement.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with two members of the award-winning team: Zack Lesmeister, who is a graduate of Marquette High School, a freshman at Emerson College and a former St. Louis youth poet laureate, and Keana Fox, a graduate of Collinsville High School who is headed to Indiana University in Indianapolis this fall. Also participating in the discussion was one of the team’s coaches, Sahara Sista SOLS.

Beth Huebner is a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County has significantly reduced its jail population over the past year, as Missouri Lawyers Weekly reported last month. Officials say the drop from an over-capacity total of 1,242 inmates in July 2018 down to 965 as of May 2019 has a lot to do with justice reform efforts that began in the wake of Ferguson protests.

University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Beth Huebner has led research in collaboration with the county, its circuit court and service providers – an effort fueled by $4.5 million in grant funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Huebner joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the progress she’s observed in the county system as well as aspects of it still in need of change.

State Rep. Bruce Franks answers reporter questions outside City Hall on Sept. 29, 2017.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 4:20 p.m., July 30, with audio of "St. Louis on the Air" host Sarah Fenske’s full interview with State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr.State Rep. Bruce Franks is planning to leave office at the end of the month, capping off an unlikely political tenure that placed the Ferguson activist and rapper firmly into the political spotlight.

Once he departs from the General Assembly, Franks will also leave Missouri. He said it’s a necessary move to deal with anxiety and depression exacerbated by a string of tragedies surrounding his friends and family.

(July 29, 2019) Sarah Fenske talked about her new role as the host of "St. Louis on the Air" on Monday's program.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Sarah Fenske is among the notable media leaders of St. Louis. She’s served as the editor in chief of the Riverfront Times for the past four years, reporting on various topics such as breaking news, business, arts and culture. Starting Tuesday, she’ll be heard on the airwaves as the new official host of St. Louis on the Air

Having passionately worked in newspapers most of her career, she didn’t expect to shift gears and media platforms so swiftly and quickly. 

“Being in newspapers for 20 years, I had seen a lot and done a lot. And I think, inside, my soul must have been ready for a change – and I didn't even realize it until I saw this particular job posting,” she told St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl on Monday’s program. 

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