Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
When we pointed the ol’ NERW-mobile south down I-79 earlier this spring to make a quick jaunt to Pittsburgh, it was more to visit radio friends than to visit radio stations – but you can’t expect us to go to one of our favorite radio cities without making at least one stop at a station, right?
A lot has changed at 90.5 and 91.3 on the dial since last we featured them in this space, and we were overdue for some catching up. WYEP (91.3), the market’s noncommercial AAA station, is a longtime resident of the city’s South Side, across the Monongahela River from downtown. A decade ago, it moved from smaller digs down Carson Street westward to a $3.5 million building in Bedford Square, with what seemed at the time to be lots of room for expansion.
And then, in 2011, WYEP picked up a sister station here at its “Community Broadcast Center,” as the former WDUQ (90.5) changed hands from Duquesne University to a new nonprofit group affiliated with WYEP. While its transmitter stayed put on Mount Washington (just west of here up on the bluffs overlooking the point where the Mon and the Allegheny merge to become the mighty Ohio River), the temporary studio at Duquesne quickly gave way to new facilities here in Bedford Square.
Today, this is a pretty full building with a lot going on inside. On the first floor, the lobby opens to a big two-story performance space that’s at the core of the building (it was locked up the day we visited and we couldn’t get a peek inside). The stations’ business offices and the WYEP music office sit on either side of the performance space, with a row of broadcast studios along the back of the building.
WYEP’s music studio is on one side, with a mirror-image studio on the other side that’s now home to WESA’s news-talk format. WESA’s local talk show, “Essential Pittsburgh,” comes from a small studio back here as well.
All that “extra” space upstairs? That’s WESA’s newsroom now, and our former Rochester colleague Deanna Garcia was settling into her new role as acting news director when we visited. There are several small voice/interview booths adjoining the newsroom, and lots of natural light from the big northward-facing windows looking out toward the river.
There are more business offices toward the front of the building. And where’s all the tech core? Below ground, in an engineering area that sits down on the basement level next to the parking garage.
Thanks to WESA’s Deanna Garcia for the tour!
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Next week: Cleveland, 2016