Every 20 years or so, Marc Steiner says he tends to undergo a professional shift. “Who knows,” says Steiner, with his characteristically boisterous laugh, “this could be my last shift?”
After 24 years of being a familiar and trusted voice on Charm City’s radio airwaves, Steiner, 71, recently announced he will be stepping away from the microphone to pursue other endeavors, as well as to build his nonprofit production company, the Center for Emerging Media.
The Peabody Award-winning talk show host will leave his daily show of nine years on Morgan State University’s public radio station WEAA-FM (88.9) on July 31. Morgan State recently informed Steiner that he would be required to raise all of his own funding for the program and did not renew his contract.
Steiner previously hosted a talk show on WJHU-FM (88.1), the Johns Hopkins University-owned public radio station. He also served as the station’s executive vice president until being fired in February 2008 because of what the station – which became WYPR – characterized as sagging ratings.
“It’s a big change, but now’s the time,” Steiner said of leaving WEAA. “It’s weird, because for 24 years I’ve had a show. It’s a strange place to be in. Putting out 10 shows a week with a small staff – one or two producers – is a lot of work.
“So I’m excited [about developing the Center for Emerging Media]. There are other things I want to do and bring back that we started a few years ago.”
In a press statement, Steiner said he is leaving WEAA on good terms. “We are so grateful to have worked with WEAA over the past nine years. They have truly become family,” he said. “They are consummate professionals and do an amazing job at representing the multi-cultural aspects of the Baltimore community. They really are ‘The Voice of the Community,’ and I encourage people to continue their support of WEAA’s programming.”
Based in Charles Village with a small staff, the Center for Emerging Media began a strategic planning process in the summer of 2015 and focuses on special projects.
One project that Steiner and the center plan to develop is a podcast on the history of Jewish music. “It’s looking at how Jews affected the cultures they’ve been in and how those cultures have affected them,” Steiner said. “Throughout the Arab world, Jews were usually the most prominent musicians.”
He said the center will also produce a documentary on Nelson Malden, the barber of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Last month, Steiner and a small crew traveled to Montgomery, Ala., to work on the project, which is partially supported by Baltimore philanthropists Eddie and Sylvia Brown.
Other planned projects include a podcast series in partnership with PBS host Tavis Smiley based on the work of the late author and political theorist Benjamin R. Barber.
“At 71, I’m excited to be learning a new skill: producing and directing film,” Steiner said in the press statement. “It’s also a perfect time for me to focus on topics I love, such as American history through the lenses of traditionally underrepresented groups including African-Americans, Native Americans, women, and LGBTQ individuals.”
Steiner, who won a Peabody Award in 2007 for his series “Just Words,” which focused on Baltimore laborers and the working poor, said he also plans to write more in the future. He was a contributor to Jmore’s cover story in April on race in the 21st century.
Earlier in his career, Steiner, a Northwest Baltimore native, worked with at-risk youth and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system, as well as the Family Circle Theater, a company of teenagers that wrote, produced, directed and acted in original productions.
In addition, Steiner served for a year as the principal of Baltimore’s Experimental High School, and he taught theater for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Among his students there were actors Josh Charles and Jada Pinkett Smith and rapper Tupac Shakur.
Jmore columnist Michael Olesker said Steiner’s departure from the airwaves is a big blow for local radio listeners.
“I think Marc Steiner is the conscience of progressive, Baltimore,” he said. “He’s been a gift to the entire metro area for decades and the loss of his voice will affect thousands of us.”
Top photo by Evan Cohen
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