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Politics & Government

Sarah Lehr Joins WKAR As Politics And Civics Reporter

sarah_lehr_headshot.jpg
Krystal Nurse
/

 Updated July 9, 12:49 p.m. ET

WKAR has a new reporter covering politics in Michigan.

Sarah Lehr joins WKAR after working as a government watchdog reporter for the Lansing State Journal. Before that, she was a reporter for the Youngstown Vindicator, a daily newspaper in northeast Ohio. 

Sarah spoke with WKAR's All Things Considered host Sophia Saliby about making the jump from print to public radio. 

Interview Highlights

On stories she's covered for the Lansing State Journal

I've done a lot of reporting on substandard housing in Lansing and the tug of war between the city and landlords as the city struggles to get rental housing up to code. I've also enjoyed reporting on Michigan's cannabis industry. I've done a story on the lack of Black cannabis business owners. I've also done stories on how marijuana grow facilities use just massive amounts of electricity and the push from some advocates to make the business more environmentally friendly.

On what she'll be following over the next few months

I'll be watching the (Lansing) city election. There's a primary this August and then the general election in November. The current mayor Andy Schor has faced calls for his resignation from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. And he faces challengers who are criticizing him on issues including racial justice and policing. I'll also be following the process for redrawing Michigan's political maps. The state is set to lose a seat in Congress and there's a new process for creating districts that is attempting to take partisanship out of the process.

On what being a civics reporter means to her

I want to look beyond the horse race to show how policies affect real people. My goal is not just to interview the usual suspects, which would be interviewing the mayor, talking to a senator, talking to a state representative. I want to talk to people who've never been interviewed by a journalist.

 
Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I'm Sophia Saliby. We have a new member of the WKAR newsroom. Sarah Lehr is our new politics and civics reporter. She comes to us from the Lansing State Journal. Thank you for being here.

Sarah Lehr: Thanks for having me.

Saliby: Some of our listeners might be familiar with your reporting in the LSJ. Why are you jumping into public radio for the first time?

Lehr: I'm an avid public radio listener and I'm excited to be able to tell stories through sound. At the same time, I think a print reporter can bring a fresh perspective to radio. I've been a government reporter in Lansing for nearly four years and I have a network of sources here that I can use for reporting at WKAR. And before I was at the LSJ, I was a reporter for the Youngstown Vindicator which is a daily newspaper with a great name in Ohio. And there was a real emphasis on shoe leather reporting there, where we were encouraged to be away from our desks in order to find stories.

Sailby: And are there any stories you're particularly proud of writing in your time at the LSJ?

Lehr: I've done a lot of reporting on substandard housing in Lansing and the tug of war between the city and landlords as the city struggles to get rental housing up to code. I've also enjoyed reporting on Michigan's cannabis industry. I've done a story on the lack of Black cannabis business owners. I've also done stories on how marijuana grow facilities use just massive amounts of electricity and the push from some advocates to make the business more environmentally friendly.

Saliby: I'm sure there's plenty for you to do here. But what stories are you excited to report on in your first couple months with us?

Lehr: I'll be watching the (Lansing) city election. There's a primary this August and then the general election in November. The current mayor Andy Schor has faced calls for his resignation from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. And he faces challengers who are criticizing him on issues including racial justice and policing. I'll also be following the process for redrawing Michigan's political maps. The state is set to lose a seat in Congress and there's a new process for creating districts that is attempting to take partisanship out of the process.

Saliby: Civics is a part of your beat. It's new for us and maybe a little bit new to you. What do you think that means for the kind of work you'll bring to our listeners?

Lehr: I want to look beyond the horse race to show how policies affect real people. My goal is not just to interview the usual suspects, which would be interviewing the mayor, talking to a senator, talking to a state representative. I want to talk to people who've never been interviewed by a journalist. For example, if the city is shutting down out homeless camp and city officials say there's enough room for everybody living on the streets to move to a shelter, I want to talk to the people who say they refuse to go a shelter and I want to know why. And I want to be there when advocates are telling people to move and as people are packing up their belongings so that I can observe the scene and describe it, which is something, for example that I, that I witnessed in Lansing earlier this year.

And I'm also always looking for story tips. So you can email me at sarah@wkar.org or reach out to me on Twitter @SarahGLehr.

Saliby: You've been in Lansing for a couple years. So what is your favorite part about living in the mid-Michigan area?

Lehr: I like running on the River Trail and I like trying all the new restaurants.

Saliby: Sarah Lehr is our politics and civics reporter. Thank you for joining us.

Lehr: Thanks for having me.

Saliby: This is WKAR. I'm Sophia Saliby.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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