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

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."

Scott Willis / WAER News

  There’s a new venue for the popular Super DIRT week racing event that has called the state fairgrounds home for decades.  The aging track and grandstand will soon be demolished as part of $70 million in redevelopment and upgrades.  Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday the event will move to the Central New York Raceway Park currently under construction in Hastings. 

Scott Willis / WAER News

  About 50 people gathered at a parish on Syracuse’s east side today to watch…then discuss what Pope Francis had to say to a joint session of Congress.  He spoke frankly on issues that resonated with the audience at All Saints Church…ranging from responding humanely to poverty and the refugee crisis…to abolishing the death penalty and addressing the environmental damage caused by climate change.  

Scroll down for the full text of Pope Francis' address.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable members of Congress, dear friends:

Scott Willis / WAER News

  A coalition of Syracuse-area community organizations has launched a push for a city ordinance aimed at giving unemployed residents a share of the jobs on large projects contracted by the city.  The resident employment ordinance is being spearheaded by the Urban Jobs Task Force and District Councilor Khalid Bey.  It would set a 20% hiring goal, with half of that reserved impoverished neighborhoods.

Dan Hartman / American Red Cross

  About 150 homeless and hurting Syracuse-area veterans will soon receive comfort kits put together by board members, volunteers, and staff with the American Red Cross. Board member Rob Just says about 75 of them will be distributed to injured vets at the VA; other 80 will be handed out to homeless veterans around Syracuse during the next two weeks.  

“The bags that are going to go to the VA hospital have a bathrobe and shower slippers,” Just said. “The homeless kits have wool hats, wool gloves, and the sweatsuit.”

Wikimedia Commons

  Many Central New Yorkers are following Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S., which kicks off late Wednesday when he arrives in the nation’s capital.  David McCallum is Special Assistant to the President for Mission Integration at LeMoyne College, a Jesuit school.  He says the Pope’s Jesuit roots give the Pontiff a fearlessness to champion social issues.

"Everyone's Italian" for Festa Italiana

Sep 18, 2015
Scott Willis / WAER News

The summer festival season continues this weekend in downtown Syracuse.   The 17th annual Italian heritage celebration kicked off Friday morning and  continues through Sunday.  Festival president Ginny Lostumbo says  along with all the food and festivities, every year they try to add an educational element to the feast.

 "We have Italian classes, we have our mass on Sunday, we're having our first reading in Italian, the second reading will be in English.  So everything we touch we try to put both sides, from the old country and from America.”           

Scott Willis / WAER News

  For most Central New Yorkers, a house call from a doctor has been unheard of for decades.  Now, the practice might be making a come-back.  Upstate University Hospital is embarking on a trial effort to bring a doctor to the front door of residents in the eastern suburbs.  The seed was planted about three years ago when the Fayetteville Fire Chief asked Dr. Christian Knutsen how they could avoid unnecessary ambulance trips to the hospital.

Anjali Alwis / WAER News

  Congressmember John Katko picked up the torch today in the effort to properly compensate certain Vietnam Veterans and their families wounded by Agent Orange.  He’s introducing the Larry Hackett  Junior Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Fairness Act, named in honor of a local veteran who lost his battle with cancer from agent orange exposure in 2006 at the age 58.  Katko says the bill will create a task force that will research the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans and find ways to care for them and their families.

Scott Willis / WAER News

  Anticipation and excitement are building as the Onondaga Nation gets ready to host the first game of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship on Friday.  

"We have teams here now.  The teams are arriving every day. They're practicing right now.  The excitement is huge."

Onondaga Faithkeeper Chief Oren Lyons and Tadodaho Sidney Hill were among those on hand Tuesday morning for the raising of the Haudenosaunee flag in front of Syracuse City Hall.  Mayor Stephanie Miner read a proclamation…

"Whereas, nearly one thousand years ago, the Onondaga Nation, together with their Haudenosaunee brethren, began playing the "Creator's Game," now known as lacrosse, in an area that was to become the City of Syracuse and the County of Onondaga.”                                 

Now, for the first time ever, an international sporting event will be held on indigenous lands.  The Onondaga Nation will host lacrosse teams from a dozen countries, and Sid Hill couldn’t be more proud.

"For us to host an event around the world, a sporting event of this magnitude, we call it our game...I can't imagine what is means for everybody.  Just the pride for us to be able to do that is amazing."

Hill says this tournament is an opportunity to show the world who they are…

"We have to educate people, we are still here,  we're a proud nation, like any other nation is proud of their culture, of their heritage, it's just something that we've worked for.  It's all coming together, and for us to host other nations, it's just an awesome event."

The Onondagas spent more than $6.5 million to prepare for the games.  Most of it went toward the building of a new pavilion.  Most of the games will be played there or the nearby arena.  A few will be played in the county’s war memorial, including the game following the opening ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday.   The finals will be held September 27th in the Carrier Dome.  A schedule and more information is at