Scott Willis

Host, Reporter, Producer

I’ve always been enamored with the intimacy of radio.  It’s so personal.  It forces you to listen…and listen only.  No visual distractions.  I grew up listening to mostly top 40 radio in Detroit, with no shortage of entertaining DJ’s.  As a teenager, I discovered the area’s all news station.  I loved knowing what was going on, and the intensity with which they told stories.  I often wondered what it would be like to be the first to know what was happening, and then tell others.  Maybe that’s why I pursued a career in news. 

I would go on to serve as an intern at that all-news station, and it was amazing and maybe a little overwhelming to see what it took to put out a constant stream of news.  But something was missing.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I actually discovered Detroit’s public radio station at my alma mater.  What a difference!  You had time to write and tell engaging, meaningful stories, to be creative, all without the pressure to constantly crank out the news.  Quality over quantity.  That’s when I knew public radio was for me.  I was hooked.

I would hone my skills on and off for almost three years at WDET as an intern under the tutelage of a patient Assistant News Director. I produced daily stories for newscasts, but also was given the privilege of producing long-form features on topics that interested me, and that people knew very little about.  Now THAT was cool.  Right up my alley.  What budding reporter could ask for more?

I landed here in Syracuse in June 2001.  Today, I’ve come full circle, and now teach the craft to more than a dozen student reporters per week.  We work hard to choose informative stories, find the most engaging sound, and edit copy for clarity and accuracy. 

Outside of work, I spend time with my wife and little boy.  We like to take walks, travel, and read.  When I can, I’ll hop on my bike for a quick ride.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the honor and privilege of bringing WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners the news of the day during All Things Considered.  Thanks for listening.

Ways to Connect and

  This is the first in a series of profiles of selected local races in Onondaga County ahead of the Nov. 3rd election.

Syracuse City Auditor Marty Masterpole wants to set the record straight on a number of allegations made by his green party opponent in recent weeks.  Masterpole is rebutting many of Howie Hawkins' claims, including that he’s not doing enough audits compared to his predecessor.

"My opponent references '11 audits per year and you're doing 4.'  I haven't counted 11 unique audits in 2008, 2009, 2010, or 2011.  There's no 11 unique audits."

Masterpole says he personally sets his office’s performance indicators; they’re not dictated by the city charter.  He says there’s a simple explanation for why the number of audits might be down. 

"The land bank audit was very extensive, it was time consuming, it was needed to help the land bank which is doing great work helping clean bad properties from our neighborhoods, collect taxes, etc.  Had I known at the time the extensiveness of that audit, maybe I would have set that performance indicator backwards."

Masterpole says the land bank audit is necessary to help the relatively new city-county entity build a path to success.  He also refutes a claim by Hawkins that audits of alcoholic beverage surcharge revenue at Clinton Square festivals are a low priority. 

"Before we started monitoring it, it would bring in  between$20,000 and $25,000.  Now I ask each festival, we want to know how much alcohol you sold, backed up with receipts from the beverage companies.  We're up to about $100,000, or up  $70,000 a year."

Which translates to about $250,000 over the past four years.  Masterpole says he’ll continue those audits because it makes sense to put that money back into parks operations.

  Qualifying Central New Yorkers will be able to sign up for new low-cost health insurance starting Nov. 1.

The Essential Plan is an extension of the Affordable Care Act and will cover people who have enrolled starting January first. Any working person who makes under $24,000 qualifies. With the plan, people would receive free insurance from one of the major carriers that covers all essential health benefits.

Scott Willis / WAER News

  Green Party candidate for Syracuse City Auditor Howie Hawkins is getting support from three former city officials, all democrats.  Hawkins knows former Common Councilors Lance Denno and Pat Hogan, as well as former Deputy City Auditor Lawrence Bott are taking a bit of a political risk.

Keely Sullivan / WAER News

  A new dog shelter opened today at a place many might not expect.  Officials cut the ribbon at the Second Chance Canine adoption shelter at the Jamesville Correctional Facility.  The new shelter will be run by inmates who will work with dogs and learn dog training skills for future jobs. County Executive Joanie Mahoney is thrilled with the new job training initiative. She says the dogs will improve inmate behavior and also the community.

Scott Willis / WAER News

  A coalition of Syracuse groups is urging residents to turn out at a public service commission hearing next week about utility shutoffs.  

51-year-old Patrick Dodrill of Syracuse has been without power since August.  He’s been looking for a job since April.   And, he's facing eviction.  He says public assistance just can’t cover rent and utilities. Dodrill lives alone, which makes him ineligible for utility assistance. 

Climate Prediction Center /

  What does winter have in store? It’s the time of year again when Central New Yorkers begin to ponder what weather patterns lie ahead.  Bitter temperatures and above-average snowfall have battered the region over the past two winters. But one forecaster says this year’s models suggest this season may be a mild one. New York State climatologist Mark Wysocki spoke to us from Cornell University.  He says there is a 73 percent chance this year’s temperatures will be warmer than average.  

Scott Willis / WAER News

  Nearly 6,200 Central New York college students who rely on a long-running federal student loan program find themselves in limbo after congress failed to renew the program.  The Perkins Loan program provides low-interest loans to students who can’t borrow or afford more expensive private student loans.  Senator Chuck Schumer stopped at LeMoyne College Wednesday, one of 122 institutions across New York that count on the loans to help make college more affordable.

Scott Willis / WAER News

  An exhibit of rare materials put together by the Syracuse University libraries is likely to shed a different light on the various utopian visions of Black American life.  The collection in part commemorates the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Scott Willis / WAER News

  Three-time Nobel peace prize nominee Kathy Kelly and a band of supporters from Central New York began walking from Hancock air base to Niagara Falls Wednesday to protest the use of weaponized drones. 

Kelly recently returned from her 16th trip to Afghanistan, where a father and four fellow graduates of the police academy were killed by drone fire while sipping tea in a garden. 

"The wife of this young man said 'Believe me, I hope this never happens to someone from your country.' How is she going to tell this child, your father was killed by a computer."