PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff / WITF picks new leader / ‘Picking up’ the Poconos


What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, March 13, 2019:

Ron Hetrick has been named the new president and CEO of WITF. He succeeds Kathleen Pavelko who is retiring after 19 years.

Hetrick served as senior vice president of finance and administration since joining WITF in 2000. As president and CEO, he will oversee all media and educational services including public television (WITF-TV); two public radio services (WITF 89.5 and WYPM 93.3 Chambersburg); a statewide digital news service (PA Post); WITF’s social media platforms; and a production services division (Media Solutions).

Ron Hetrick appears on Smart Talk today to discuss his new role.

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Ron Hetrick

Also, Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour, joins Smart Talk today to discuss navigating changing political climates.

In the four decades that she has covered news and politics at the national level, Woodruff observed elected power change hands many times. Now, more than ever, it seems like political differences are shaping more than just policy. They are changing how we interact with one another.

Woodruff will also bring her perspective to Lehigh University on March 29, as this year’s speaker for the Kenner Lecture on Cultural Understanding. Her topic is “Speaking Across Political Differences Today in America.”

Finally, the Pocono Mountains are a destination for vacationers and day-trippers from around the world. More than 26-million visitors travel there every year. Unfortunately, litter along highways and in public areas is becoming more noticeable as visitors increase.

The Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau launched an anti-littering campaign last year to address the problem and, hopefully, effect change.

How successful are their efforts?

Appearing on Smart Talk to talk about keeping the Poconos ‘clean and green’ is Christopher Barrett, president and CEO, Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau.

See the iconic 1971 “Crying Indian” PSA anti-litter commercial below:

Media coverage of TMI accident was part of the story

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Press gathering around Metropolitan Edison Vice President Jack Herbein March 29,1979.

What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, March 12, 2019:

WITF continues it’s coverage of the 40th anniversary of the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island Tuesday on Smart Talk by discussing how the media covered the event and its aftermath.

The nation’s worst commercial nuclear accident on March 28, 1979 was a seminal moment for most Central Pennsylvanians who can recount where they were and how they reacted to the news of the TMI incident. The same can be said about journalists who covered the story for their newspapers or radio or TV stations.

A group of reporters, who had very little knowledge of nuclear power, came together and were given information that was often confusing and contradictary — if they got useful information at all from plant operator Metropolitan Edison. Even state government officials, including then Gov. Dick Thornburgh, complained about the information that was disseminated.

It wasn’t until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Harold Denton was dispatched to TMI at the behest of President Jimmy Carter that media and officials were given credible explanations of what happened.

Appearing on Tuesday’s Smart Talk are two former journalists who covered the TMI story — Dick Hoxworth of WGAL-TV and WHP Radio’s Dave Sollenberger.

Is the opioid crisis over?


What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, September 24, 2018:

The opioid crisis has impacted every facet of American life and touched all socio-economic levels.

Recent news reports say that overdose deaths are leveling off after two years of increasing numbers.

Does this mean the opioid crisis over?

Not so fast, according Jennifer Smith, Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. While Pennsylvania and other states have seen a reduction in opioid related deaths, the crisis is not over — but it is changing.

Some areas in the state are seeing a decrease in opioid use, but at the same time they are also seeing marked increase in cocaine and methamphetamine consumption.

What is driving the change? And how are ethnically diverse populations impacted?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the changing opioid crisis is Jennifer Smith, Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Matt Null, referral development manager of Gaudenzia addiction treatment and recovery.

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Matthew Null and Secretary Jennifer Smith

Surgical teams take medical skills global

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Dr. Brett Delone, Surgeon, (left) and his surgical team, Kigali, Rwanda, September, 2018 (Photo by Margaret Marchaterre)

What to look for on Smart Talk on Monday, March 11, 2019:

A local group of medical professionals and volunteers is providing cost-free medical care in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Known as Operation Medical, the non-profit organization has taken their skills out of Central Pennsylvania and performed more than two thousand surgeries across three continents.

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Dr. Ken Arthur, Plastic Surgeon (right) and his surgical team, Valsad, India, January, 2019 (Photo by Margaret Marchaterre)

Operation Medical began six years ago and is made up of thirty doctors and over two hundred volunteers who emphasize the importance of global healthcare.

Joining us on Smart Talk to discuss the organization is Dr. Makul Parikh, MD, Founder and President of Operation Medical, and Director of Anesthesia at UPMC Pinnacle’s West Shore Hospital, Dr. Brett Delone, incoming President of Operation Medical and General Surgeon, Interim CMO at Geisinger Holy Spirit, and Dawn VanDervort, RN, Breast Cancer Coordinator.

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Dr. Mukul Parikh, Anesthesiologist, administering anesthesia, Valsad, India, January 2019 (Photo by Margaret Marchaterre)

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Dr. Makul Parikh, Dawn VanDervort and Brett Delone

William Penn’s life and the case for female superheroes

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, March 8, 2019:

Sunday is Charter Day in Pennsylvania — marking the day when the Commonwealth’s founder William Penn obtained a charter in 1681 for territory that would be known as Pennsylvania from the King of England.

Most Pennsylvanians learned in history classes that Penn was looking to establish a place in the New World for religious freedom — especially for Quakers who were persecuted for their religious beliefs in Great Britain. However, most don’t know much else about Penn who was a businessman, prolific writer and was in debt most of his life.

On Friday’s Smart Talk, we learn more about Pennsylvania’s founder from Andrew Murphy, author of the new book William Penn: A Life.

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Smart Talk host Scott LaMar with the book William Penn: A Life, by Professor Andrew Murphy.

Also, when it comes to superpowers, closing the ‘confidence gap’ is probably a female superhero’s greatest strength.

It’s true that most superheroes are male, but a recent study showed that when a Super is female the impact on young girls is measurable.

Cat woman, Black Widow and Supergirl are known to most, and soon Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel) will explode onto the scene.

What will happen when Marvel’s ‘mightiest Avenger” makes her debut?

Joining us on Smart Talk to make the case for female supers is Dr. Melissa Wehler, Ph.D., Dean of Humanities and Sciences at Central Penn College. Wehler publishes on topics such as feminism, performance and the explosion of strong female characters in popular culture.

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Dr. Melissa Wehler, Ph.D., Dean of Humanities and Sciences at Central Penn College.

Recreation gets funding commitment and carbon credits for woodlands?


What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, March 6, 2019:

Americans enjoy outdoor recreation. Pennsylvania, in particular, is a natural playground to “pursue your happiness.” Activities like biking, hiking, skiing are unlimited.

The federal government established the Land and Water Conservation Fund 50 years ago to preserve and protect recreational opportunities. That fund created a network of open spaces for Americans to hunt, fish, hike, swim, and play.

The funding expired last year without a long-term solution for authorization, until Congress recently approved the Natural Resources Management Act. However, the reauthorization bill still awaits President Trump’s approval.

What does this mean for conservation and recreation programs in Pennsylvania?

Appearing on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss the LWCF impact are Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Lauren Imgrund, Deputy Secretary for Conservation and Technical Services. Imgrund is also the President of the National Association of Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers, which is comprised of the state managers of the LWCF state and local assistance program.

Also, the nearly 17 million forested acres in Pennsylvania provide many benefits to the state: economic, social, and ecological.

Most of the forests are privately owned and The Nature Conservancy is helping landowners maximize their land investment through a program called Working Woodlands.

Joining us on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss how landowners can conserve their forests while generating revenue at the same time is Josh Parrish, Working Woodlands Program Director, The Nature Conservancy.

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Lauren Imgrund, Cindy Adams Dunn, and Josh Parrish

Why are there fewer police officers in the U.S.?

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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, March 6, 2019:

The number of police officers across the country is shrinking. There are more than 20,000 fewer cops on the streets today than there were in 2013.

According to recent findings from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “the U.S. population has risen from 267 million in 1997 to 323 million in 2016,” but the number of full-time police officers has declined to 701,000 after peaking at 725,000 in 2013.

Many police officers have retired or left law enforcement and not enough replacements have been recruited. Several reasons have been cited for the decline, including young people not wanting to face the scrutiny that today’s police are under.

As retention rates continue to fall, local police forces are finding recruitment of minority populations challenging. Recruiting female officers is especially difficult, and Pennsylvania falls below the national average for minority recruitment.

What is causing the overall national decline and how is it impacting female and minority recruitment?

Joining us on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the falling number of police officers are Deputy Chief Deric Moody, Harrisburg City Bureau of Police and Detective Sergeant Lisa Layden, Southwestern Regional Police in York County. Also joining us is Lt. Robert Bailey, of the Recruitment Services Section of the Pennsylvania State Police.

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Detective Sergeant Lisa Layden, Southwestern Regional Police Department in York County, and Deputy Chief Deric Moody, Harrisburg Bureau of Police.

Industrial Hemp is creating a buzz in PA



What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, March 5, 2019:

Industrial hemp is creating quite a buzz in Pennsylvania and around the country.

Touted as America’s “next big cash crop,’ the 2018 Farm Bill fully legalizes the cultivation of hemp–and farmers are taking notice.

Industrial hemp has a long history in the U.S. as a textile. It was also a common crop in Pennsylvania, mainly produced for rope and sailcloth before the invention of lighter synthetics.

Modern uses for industrial hemp are expansive. Products ranging from clothing to compression moldings — food products to biofuel.

The applications for industrial hemp are seemingly unlimited. So, why has it taken the government so long to remove the barriers?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss how Pennsylvania growers are responding to the opportunity are Alyssa A. Collins, Ph.D., Director, Penn State extension Southeast Agricultural Research & Extension Center, Mark O’Neill, communications director with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and grower Scott Brown of Brown Hill Farms in Wyoming County.

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Dr. Alyssa Collins and Mark O’Neill

County prison suicides and Human Service’s top budget issues

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What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, March 4, 2019:

The number of suicides reported in Pennsylvania county jails is troubling.

In the last four years, there were 81 reported suicides in the county jail system. That number accounts for individuals who died by suicide, however, the number attempted is much higher, but may not be accurate.

Inmate advocates are concerned the total number of suicides may be higher, because some deaths are attributed to natural causes and not reported.

To put the numbers in perspective, a criminal justice report recently compared the 2013 suicide rate for local jails, which was 46 per 100,000 inmates, to the age-adjusted suicide rate among the general population. That general population rate was 12.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2013.

County officials say the problem has a lot to do with the changing role of county jails. Local jails are not just a way-point to the prison system, they have become a place to assess and treat inmate mental health problems, as well.

Appearing on Smart Talk Monday to discuss the county jail suicide data is PA Post reporter Ed Mahon, Claire Shubik-Richards, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, and Brinda Penyak, deputy director, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

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Claire Shubik-Richards, executive director of PA Prison Society, and Brinda Penyak, deputy director, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

Also, last week was a busy one at the Capitol with Human Services budget briefings. WITF Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis joins Smart Talk to discuss the big issues likely to come up during the remaining legislative session.

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Ed Mahon, PA Post reporter, and Brett Sholtis, WITF’s Transforming Health reporter.

Three Mile Island 40th anniversary — what’s ahead?

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What to look for on Smart Talk, Friday, March 1, 2019:

The Three Mile Island accident occurred on March 28, 1979. It was and still is the nation’s worst commercial nuclear accident. TMI also was one of the most historic events in Central Pennsylvania — one that everyone living in the region at the time remembers exactly what they were doing and how the next week played out.

That’s one of the aspects of what makes the Three Mile Island incident and aftermath unique — the accident itself occurred on a Wednesday morning, but there were fears in the following days of a complete meltdown of the reactor, a radioactive hydrogen bubble exploding inside the plant, radioactivity being released offsite, evacuations and the health of pregnant women and small children.

WITF is collaborating with PA Post and PennLive on a multimedia, month-long look at the accident, its impact and the future of TMI and the nuclear industry. That includes new documentary television and radio programs, long-form audio stories, photos, and digital videos. The work will include the voices of people affected as well as community events to engage with listeners, readers and viewers.

Friday’s Smart Talk includes a preview of what’s ahead over the next month along with stories from those living near TMI that include the media, educators and activists. We’d also like to hear your stories too.

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Mike Williams, WITF’s Multimedia Producer, and Marie Cusick, StateImpact PA reporter.

Did you live in central Pennsylvania in the spring of 1979?

To mark the 40th anniversary of the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, WITF is working on a series about the accident and its impact. That includes new documentary television programs, radio features and a range of online content.

We want to hear your stories about evacuating the region, why you decided to stay during the emergency, working at TMI, living near the plant, why you attribute health issues to the accident, or any other story related to the incident.

Share your story with us by emailing TMI@witf.org.