Evan Dawson

Connections Host

Evan Dawson joined WXXI in January 2014 after working at 13WHAM-TV, where he served as morning news anchor. He was hired as a reporter for 13WHAM-TV in 2003 before being promoted to anchor in 2007.

Evan is also the author of Summer in a Glass: The Coming Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes and is the managing editor/Finger Lakes editor for the New York Cork Report, a web site that offers independent news, reviews, and commentary about the New York wine industry.

He has written freelance articles on topics including politics, wine, travel, and Major League Baseball.

Ways To Connect

Yes, the state’s roads and bridges are in a mess, and at the moment we can’t afford to replace them. The Cuomo administration has yet to explain the details of how it’ll fund the new Hudson River Crossing.

A recent report from the transport research group TRIP found that nearly 40 percent of New York State’s bridges are either structurally deficient or obsolete. We’ll talk to one Rochester-based engineer who builds new ones who’s just returned from Washington D.C. to lobby for the funding for these unsexy state and local assets. We’ll also hear from the Brookings Institution on how the policy and finances of infrastructure operate.

Our guests:

We take a slight departure from the usual Innovation Friday topics to acknowledge a major anniversary related to America’s involvement in the war in Vietnam.

In 1975, 2,700 Vietnamese babies and children were evacuated to the US mainland in Operation Babylift. Another 1,300 went to Canada, Australia and Europe. 

A series of commemorative events are planned for Saturday April 25th which marks the day when the last transport plane left the tarmac in Saigon ahead of the advancing North Vietnamese Army. 

Forty years later we speak with some of those adoptees about their lives, and with adoptive parents and veterans who were involved in this major turning point.

Our guests:

  • Greg Hodges, airlift adoptee who grew up in Cohocton, New York
  • Tia Keevil, airlift adoptee who is now a nurse in New York City
  • Lana Noone, adoptive parent who’s first adoptive daughter, Heather, passed away not long after arriving in the U.S.; her other daughter, Jennie, was the last baby placed through the Operation Babylift.
  • Sister Mary Nell Gage, was in Vietnam between 1973-75 and was stationed at the Presidio during Operation Babylift
  • Bill Terrell, a Vietnam veteran who helped rebuild an orphanage destroyed during the war when he was on active service 

Hillary Clinton didn't tip at Chipotle. So what? It's an international scandal now? We're going to have a discussion about what this says about the American news media, and then we're going to talk about the etiquette of tipping. When ARE we supposed to tip, anyway? And where? And how much? Our panel represents various industries: bartending, restaurant, salon / hair care, coffee, and more. 

Deported Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov joins me in studio. He was deported from his home country after a tweet. Zeynalov is one of a group of reporters who focused on corruption in Turkey, including police and government actions. After tweeting a link to a story on corruption, he was called a traitor by the government, and for three days Zeynalov went into hiding, refusing to turn himself in to police. In February of 2014 he was deported and now works in Washington, writing for a Turkish daily, the Huffington Post, and al-Arabiya. He's in Rochester to speak to the Peace Islands Institute's annual friendship dinner. He joins us along with Bulent Ozdemir, executive director of the Turkish Cultural Center of Rochester.

Kara DioGuardi knows something about writing a hit song. She's a songwriter who has worked with Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Christina Aguilera, and many others. DioGuardi was also a judge on American Idol for two seasons. She's visiting Rochester as a guest of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester, but stopped in to be a guest on Connections, along with John Covach, director for the Inistitute of for Popular Music at the U of R. She'll be offering a songwriting workshop and will be joining IPM's free "In Conversation series." 

Is the governor's START-UP NY program in trouble? Critics on both sides say it looks like a flop, but the governor says that's being unfairly hasty. Companies participating in the state's START-UP NY program created 76 jobs in 2014; the promise is more than 2,000. The governor says we're well on the way to achieving that number. So why are the critics so adamant that this program is a waste of tax dollars? What do economists say? We ask our panel:

We preview Imagine RIT Innovation and Creativity Festival. 2015 marks the eighth year for Imagine, with an annual draw of around 30,000 visitors. In studio:

Barry Culhane, chairman of the event
David Amata, building a game to teach young children how to read
Katie Tigue, associate producer of a game called Splattershmup
Dan Phillips, working with students on a dual-purpose wheelchair-platform swing
Erik Lydick, working on a robotic seeing-eye dog
Adam Podolec, working on a soft-ankle foot orthotic to help people with dropped foot
Jonathon Greene, working on a device to allow young children with disabilities to move independently

What's next in the state testing standoff? Opt-out numbers have soared; in some school districts, more students (grades 3 through 8) were opted out of the testing than the students who took the tests. The next round of tests is coming up, and there are questions about what the high opt-out numbers mean... for teacher evaluations, for school district funding, and more. Joining the discussion:

  • Bill Cala, Fairport superintendent
  • Bruce Amey, Avon superintendent
  • Justin Murphy, Democrat & Chronicle reporter
  • Mahreen George, parent opposed to testing
  • Sam Radford, parent supporting testing

David Roediger is considered one of the leading voices in the public discussion of white privilege or, as he prefers to call it, "white advantage." Roediger is a historian who has examined race throughout American history, including in his book, The Wages of Whiteness. Roediger visited Hobart & William Smith to speak to students about race, American history, and the recent events related to police / community relations. 

James Hansen in our guest, and he's considered one of the most significant voices in the call for action on climate change. In fact, Hansen's testimony before a U.S. Senate committee in 1988 is considered to be a turning point, an event that pushed the public to viewing climate change as an immediate threat. He was the Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and is highly regarded for his research. Hansen is in Rochester for several events; he'll speak at the Little Theatre on Monday night, and then he'll address a SRO crowd Tuesday night as part of an event put on by the local chapter of the Sierra Club.