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St. Louis on the Air

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 host Sarah Fenske brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region.

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Recognizing Indigenous People's Day With a Native Storyteller

Host Sarah Fenske talks with Suzanne Michelle White of the Choctaw Tribe of Oklahoma, a descendant of Cherokee, Delaware, and Lumbee nation/tribes, about Indigenous People's Day and how people may observe it.


14 Oct 2019

Rank #1

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Bathtub Gin and Bootleggers: St. Louis' Wild Prohibition Years

The 18th Amendment of the United States Constitution established the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. Enforcement of the new law started on January 17, 1920. In this episode, our panelists dive into St. Louis' rich Prohibition-era history.They describe the time robbers siphoned off 3,000 barrels of whiskey from the Jack Daniels distillery, how Anheuser-Busch survived more than a decade of a nationwide ban on alcoholic beverages, and they recall the tale of a 1922 New Year’s Eve party at the Chase Hotel when an enforcement raid led to plates being thrown, shots being fired and pandemonium spilling out onto Lindell Boulevard.


14 Feb 2020

Rank #2

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The Intersection Of Politics, Policy And Car-Centric Culture At Regional Trouble Spots

Every city has its nightmare intersections, and many residents could likely cite a personal nemesis or two. In the greater St. Louis area, the crossroads of North Grand Boulevard and Interstate 64 in Grand Center, and Eager and Hanley in Brentwood, may well come to mind among other notoriously tricky traffic spots. Frequently stressful for drivers and non-drivers alike, these sections of public infrastructure can seem like a permanent fixture of civic life, along with the honking, confusion and rage they trigger. But change can sometimes happen. In this episode, host Sarah Fenske takes a closer look at some of the region’s worst intersections – and discusses how planners work to address trouble spots in an age of crumbling infrastructure across the U.S. The conversation also touches on what residents can do to help address problematic roads and contribute to smoother, safer streets for all. Joining the discussion are Scott Ogilvie, who is a transportation policy planner for the City of St. Louis, and Kea Wilson, a St. Louis-based communications manager for Strong Towns.


27 Aug 2019

Rank #3

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St. Louis Author Ben Westhoff Tackles 'Fentanyl, Inc.'

Fentanyl has become an international scourge. It’s been blamed for a spike in drug overdose deaths in Missouri as well as around the world. It’s both contaminated many recreational drugs and become a substitute for heroin in many American cities. And yet the Chinese factory responsible for manufacturing most of its precursors has received funding and lucrative tax breaks from the Chinese government. Through years of research, St. Louis journalist Ben Westhoff has become one of the foremost experts into the international fentanyl trade. In this episode, he discusses his new book, “Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic.” Westhoff talks about how his investigation followed the drug from its manufacture in China to the streets of St. Louis – and the terrible impact that synthetic, laboratory-made drugs are having on communities around the world.


29 Aug 2019

Rank #4

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The State Of St. Louis Print Media

It’s been a tough decade for the media business, particularly for outlets focused on disseminating the written word. Publications have closed across the U.S. Many newspapers no longer offer daily editions. And many of the online news outlets vying to replace (or at least supplement) them have seen layoffs of their own. But despite a host of challenges to the advertising-based business model, St. Louis finds itself with a surprisingly robust print-media landscape. In this segment we discuss St. Louis’ media history and the current media landscape with Frank Absher, a radio veteran and the executive director of the St. Louis Media History Foundation; Gilbert Bailon, the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; longtime local writer Jeannette Cooperman, who is an inductee in this year’s St. Louis Media Hall of Fame; and Antonio French, a former alderman and mayoral candidate who became adept at using Twitter and Vine to chronicle the Ferguson protests in real time. French also recently started a pair of weekly newspapers.


13 Mar 2020

Rank #5

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'Mrs. America,' The Story of Phyllis Schlafly And The Equal Rights Amendment

Host Sarah Fenske talks to "Mrs. America" showrunner Davi Waller on Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air" about the FX on Hulu drama miniseries, which tells the true story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and the unexpected backlash led by a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, played by Cate Blanchett. The conversation also touches on the decades of political history Schlafly and her political adversaries helped shape — and how Waller went about bringing this story to the screen.


9 Apr 2020

Rank #6

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Answering Your Questions About First Coronavirus Case In Missouri

Host Sarah Fenske talks to experts about the Coronavirus. It’s now here in St. Louis County. What precautions should you take? The family of the first presumed case here has already broken its voluntary quarantine. Do officials see any hope for containing the disease Coronavirus spreads?


9 Mar 2020

Rank #7

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North St. Louis Site Has NGA Looking To ‘Change The Way Our Agency Does Business’

In three weeks, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will formally break ground on Next NGA West, its long-anticipated new headquarters that will be located in north St. Louis. The $1.7 billion construction project is expected to last several years, with a goal of completing much of the campus in 2023. In this segment, Next NGA West Program Director Sue Pollmann joins host Sarah Fenske to give an update on the project and to discuss the spy agency’s hopes for the St. Louis region as a geospatial industry hub.


5 Nov 2019

Rank #8

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Talking ‘Ghoul School’ With Local Scare Actors

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske was joined by Richard Ivey and Bailey Gettemeier, the actor managers of The Darkness and Creepyworld, respectively. They talked about running haunted houses, getting punched in the face on the job, and what it means to work as a scare actor.


12 Sep 2019

Rank #9

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How The Mississippi River Shaped St. Louis

The Mississippi River has been integral to life in the St. Louis region for hundreds of years — from Native Americans who occupied areas in and around Cahokia Mounds to the later arrival of European settlers. In this segment, Sarah Fenske talks with Andrew Wanko, public historian for the Missouri Historical Society and author of the new book, “Great River City: How the Mississippi Shaped St. Louis.” Also joining the conversation is David Lobbig, curator of environmental life at the Missouri Historical Society. He is the content lead on the Missouri History Museum’s newest exhibit “Mighty Mississippi,” which opened November 23.


6 Dec 2019

Rank #10

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A Look At Why Visits To The Gateway Arch Are Down — Despite $380 Million Redevelopment

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, the Arch grounds aren’t getting the kinds of projected visitation numbers calculated before the $380 million redevelopment that wrapped up in 2018. It was projected that there would be a 25% to 33% increase in visitors to the monument in the first two years after completion. Host Sarah Fenske delves into reasons why that hasn’t been the case and what new initiatives are in store to help bring those visitation numbers up. Joining the discussion are Jacob Kirn, St. Louis Business Journal economic development editor, and Mike Ward, superintendent of the Gateway Arch National Park.


11 Feb 2020

Rank #11

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Sauce Magazine Staffers Share Their Picks For The Best Curbside Cocktails

In mid-April, the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control suspended laws preventing St. Louis area restaurants from selling pre-batched cocktails. Now the restaurants are free to sell the to-go cocktails to customers who order them. Our friends at Sauce Magazine join host Sarah Fenske to talk about how area restaurants are faring with the changes and some of the best places to get curbside cocktails during this period.


1 May 2020

Rank #12

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A Look At The State Of The Region's Sidewalks — And How To Improve Them

In an age of crumbling infrastructure across the U.S., sidewalks have been no exception to the pattern of decay. The city of St. Louis alone is home to roughly 2,000 miles worth of sidewalks, and both the physical condition and suitability of those streetside pathways vary widely. David Newburger, St. Louis' commissioner on the disabled, is constantly working with colleagues to update sidewalks and maintain ADA compliance, and they’re also thinking about sidewalks within the context of streets as a whole. Meanwhile, local municipalities including both St. Louis and Kirkwood are participating in the National Complete Streets Coalition, which is focused on making roads better for all types of users rather than prioritizing drivers. U.S. Department of Transportation statistics on pedestrian deaths show there’s still much work to be done. For Kirkwood City Councilwoman Kara Wurtz, the fact that Missouri ranks among the more dangerous states for pedestrians is a problem. She’s made addressing it within her municipality’s borders a focus. In this episode of the talk show, Wurtz and Newburger join host Sarah Fenske for a discussion about the state of the region’s sidewalks and what needs to happen to improve pedestrian comfort and safety. Also participating in the conversation is Cindy Mense, CEO of Trailnet. The discussion also includes listeners during the show who call in and post messages on social media with their thoughts on sidewalks.


24 Jan 2020

Rank #13

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Many St. Louis Area Trees Aren’t Changing Colors — Here’s Why

Drives around the St. Louis area have so far been a little less colorful this fall. That’s mainly due to unusual daytime and nighttime temperatures that are preventing chlorophyll from breaking down. The breakdown in chlorophyll causes leaves to lose their green color.


23 Oct 2019

Rank #14

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Legal Roundtable Tackles Kroenke’s Phone Records, More

Host Sarah Fenske will talk with our Legal Roundtable panelists about several current issues pertaining to the law.


27 Nov 2019

Rank #15

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EHOC's New Intramarket Report Shows Rising St. Louis Rents

St. Louis’ relatively low cost of living is an oft-touted point of pride for the region. But a newly released report by the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, or EHOC, suggests that life in the Gateway City isn’t so affordable for everyone — especially when it comes to paying rent. Compiled by the organization’s community engagement specialist, the report aims to fill an information gap when it comes to understanding local rent costs. And one of the key takeaways from Glenn Burleigh’s ZIP-code-level analysis is that perceptions of gentrification are rooted in reality: Across the city of St. Louis, rents are rising faster than in the metropolitan region as a whole, and twice as fast in the central corridor and south St. Louis. In this episode, Burleigh joins host Sarah Fenske to discuss the implications of EHOC’s recent findings as well as related topics.


8 Nov 2019

Rank #16

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What It Was Really Like In St. Louis During The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic

In determining the best guidelines for government action during the COVID-19 outbreak, city leaders and officials are looking at how different metros responded during the 1918 flu pandemic. The general consensus is that because St. Louis implemented more extensive quarantine measures, the area had a lower death rate than other cities in the U.S. Chris Naffziger, who writes about history and architecture for St. Louis magazine, says that while city officials managed to prevent the deaths of thousands during the pandemic of 1918 through 1920, St. Louis’ response to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic wasn't quite what we remember.


1 Apr 2020

Rank #17

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Get To Know A Couple Of Sauce Magazine's 'Ones to Watch' In 2020

On this month’s Sound Bites segment, produced in partnership with Sauce Magazine, managing editor Heather Hughes Huff gives an overview of the six up-and-comers the publication chose for its annual "Ones to Watch" feature that highlights local culinary talent. Host Sarah Fenske talks with Hughes Huff as well as featured restaurateurs, Alejandra Fallows and Bailey Schuchmann.


21 Jan 2020

Rank #18

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Underground Railroad Tours To Begin In Alton Feb. 29

The town of Alton was a major stop for escaped slaves making their way from St. Louis to Canada. In this interview, Sarah Fenske talks with J. Eric Robinson, assistant professor of history at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy and proprietor of J. E. Robinson tours, about the historic places and people involved in the Underground Railroad in St. Louis and in Illinois. Robinson will begin guided tours of Alton’s Underground Railroad history starting Feb. 29.


21 Feb 2020

Rank #19

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Big Muddy Canoe Trips Are Reintroducing St. Louisans To Their Mighty Mississippi

Despite its ever-present vastness along the Missouri-Illinois border, the Mississippi River is easy for locals to take for granted. And all too often, residents completely avoid the river. It’s one thing to drive above it on a highway or eat a meal at a restaurant overlooking the water; relatively few actually travel its meandering length. But the people behind Big Muddy Adventures are aiming to change that, one canoe trip at a time. Host Sarah Fenske talks with the company’s founder and lead guide, Mike Clark, who is better known as “Muddy Mike," and Roo Yawitz, general manager of Big Muddy Adventures. And, producer Evie Hemphill talks with some enthusiastic recent canoe passengers.


27 Aug 2019

Rank #20