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Capitol Pressroom's Arbetter talks politics at Buffalo forum

WBFO's Mike Desmond

The interviewing tables were turned on Susan Arbetter Tuesday night, and she said the change made it "uncomfortable." The award-winning host of public radio's "The Capitol Pressroom" was interviewed by Investigative Post Executive Director Jim Heaney before an audience at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Arbetter talked about her beginnings as a young girl, originally from Queens, growing up in poverty-stricken western Pennsylvania, where she was the only Jewish family in town.

"I actually believe it was why I do what I do now," Arbetter explained to the audience. "I grew to become very sympathetic to the travails of rural poverty and racism. I mean, we were a very liberal family. My parents instilled in me that racism and anti-Semitism was not acceptable and that you need to step and fight it whenever you can turn."

She also talked about the beginnings of "The Capitol Pressroom."

"I wanted to produce something that was intelligent on an emotional level. You know, something that was thoughtful, not just the same old talking points and blather, something inclusive," she said. "I also wanted to make sure women, somebody like me, would want to listen to it."

The program finally became a reality with the help of WBFO.

"I reached out to Mark Scott, the news director at the time at WBFO. I don't think I was on the air yet," she said as she made eye contact with the radio station’s former news director who was in the audience. “You bought into this thing sight unseen. Well, God bless you."

Arbetter's "The Capitol Pressroom" can heard on WBFO weeknights at 8 p.m. and on 19 other public radio stations across New York State. Her appearance was a fundraiser for Investigative Post, which is a WBFO partner.