Brian Ellison


Brian Ellison is substitute host of Central Standard and Up To Date and co-host of the podcast Statehouse Blend. He has served in a variety of roles at KCUR since 2008, including acting producer and associate producer of Up To Date and was acting producer of The Walt Bodine Show. He also contributes to KCUR news coverage, including anchoring election night coverage and conducting interviews for the "Innovation KC" series.

An ordained Presbyterian minister, Brian served as pastor of Parkville Presbyterian Church for 13 years and now is executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians. A graduate of Harvard University and Princeton Theological Seminary, he is also a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in preaching at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo.

Ways to Connect

Beth Lipoff/KCUR

In sports, we teach kids valuable lessons like, “Winning isn’t everything. The most important thing is that you did your best.” But if you’re a pro athlete, that goes out the window. Your job is to win.

On Friday's Up to Date, we look at the psychology of the clubhouse in a pennant race as the Royals gear up for possibly their first post-season appearance in a generation. We also hear from a team official about what it feels like to be at the K these days.


Hannah Copeland / KCUR

Next week voters will cast their votes for Chair of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners— the highest elected office in the county. They’ll narrow the field from three candidates down to the two who will be on the November ballot. All three joined Friday's Up to Date for a candidate forum, their last before Tuesday’s election.


Theresa Thompson / Flickr-CC

On Thursday's Up to Date, guest host Brian Ellison covers primary ballot issues on both sides of the state line. In Kansas, KCUR has kept an eye on Milton Wolf and Sen. Pat Roberts as they battle to be the Republican nominee for the U.S.

Nathan Haley / Flickr-CC

The recession hit more than five years ago, but its effects are still rippling through this country-- and that's what President Obama is here to address. In Wednesday morning's speech, he will be talking to a crowd at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo., about the economic challenges facing middle-class families and why he has taken executive action on issues such as minimum wage.

Up to Date will provide coverage of the event, with a live feed of the speech and post-speech analysis from local experts.

Scott Morgan for Secretary of State / Department of Justice

Primary elections in Kansas and Missouri are one week from today. On the Kansas side, a lot of the action will wait until November but one primary race in particular has gained a lot of attention, more than you might expect. Incumbent Kris Kobach is well known for his work on election and immigration laws. His opponent, Scott Morgan, says that's a big part of the problem.

401(K) 2012/Flickr-CC

Election season has kicked off, and we’re gearing up to a flurry of primaries throughout the area. Today, we’re taking a look at the ballots in Kansas City, Mo., and the state of Missouri.

On Monday's Up to Date, we discuss the streetcar proposal that’s found its way into the voting booth. Voters will decide whether they want to expand the taxing district east and south, and as a result, expand the proposed streetcar lines.

Milton Wolf / YouTube

Throughout this election season, KCUR will bring you AdWatch, a series evaluating the words and images filling the airwaves aimed at Missouri and Kansas voters.

The hotly contested Republican race for U.S. Senator from Kansas, where incumbent Pat Roberts and challenger Milton Wolf have turned their sights squarely on one another, has brought a slew of ads to the Kansas airwaves.

Butterflyxoeio / Flickr Creative Commons

So, you like animals? You enjoy watching them, taking care of them, and talking about them? Would you make a good zookeeper? Guest Host Brian Ellison takes a look at the true life of Kansas City Zoo zookeepers on Tuesday's Up to Date. Find out what it's really like to chase a fugitive chimpanzee and keep the penguins healthy and happy in their habitat. Speaking of penguins, you can watch the penguins at the Kansas City Zoo live right here.


Mark Fischer / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week we saw the closing of another Supreme Court session with landmark rulings about religious freedom, cell phone privacy, and recess appointments. But there was another decision: a 5-4 ruling that may have an impact on unions and how they operate, including right in the Kansas City area. On Tuesday's Up To Date,  guest host Brian Ellison talks with the AFL-CIO's Craig Becker on the highest court in the land's ruling on union agency fees.

Centers for Disease Control

There are 76 million Americans who were born between the mid-40s and the mid-60s. The Baby Boomers have much of the wealth, much of the power, much of the responsibility in our nation today. But, they also now have the highest suicide rate among all age groups. Guest host Brian Ellison talks with Kansas City Star reporter Rick Montgomery about this alarming statistic and how the rate in Kansas has skyrocketed in the last few years.

Mlaaker / Flickr-CC

When you think of the Masons, images of secret societies and rituals may come to mind—but what about their architecture?

Matt Herron

Thursday's Up to Date brings the never before told story of powerful events witnessed by five young photographers during the momentous summer of 1964 in the segregated South. Guest host Brian Ellison talks with Matt Herron, one of the photographers and author of Mississippi Eyes: The Story and Photography of the Southern Documentary Project, "the only book to provide a firsthand account of what it was actually like to photograph the civil rights struggle in the Deep South."

News broke this week of a major development in the ongoing conversation about Kansas City’s plans for extending the planned streetcar line. The committee finalizing the plan announced it will not recommend extending the tracks south of the UMKC campus.

Now the expansion will go south only to UMKC and east along Linwood and Independence Avenues.

Courtesy / Black Archives of Mid-America

In an age before the internet—and in an environment that in some ways promoted isolation and disconnection—African-Americans in Kansas City in the early 20th century still found ways to find connection and community.

Churches and social clubs have been called the “glue” that held the black community together, alongside families and schools, and a new exhibit at the Black Archives of Mid-America chronicles some of that important history.


  • Michael Sweeney, collection librarian for the Black Archives of Mid-America
Anne Roberts / Flickr-CC

It’s no secret that people of different religions often clash over their differences. But when you look closer, the similarities jump out, especially when it comes to significant objects. 

On Wednesday's Up to Date, our Religion Roundtable takes a look at why objects such as stones, crosses, bread, drums and incense have places of prominence in spiritual observance and how their function differs in each religion.


GraggV / Flickr--Creative Commons

The relentlessly cold winter just might be over, and the sun is starting to shine — at least on occasion.

So, enjoy the spring weather and all our region has to offer with day trips that are big on fun, but won't break the bank or cost you precious vacation time.

Central Standard host Brian Ellison talked with experts who shared ideas and tools to find the best day trips in and around Kansas City. 

From that discussion came this list of ideas:

For foodies:

Gates Foundation / Flickr -- Creative Commons

It's no surprise that the American education system is lagging behind many other countries. The latest PISA exam shows that the United States falls 36th in the world in math; below a diverse rang of counties including Poland, Japan and Viet Nam.

What's interesting is not that the United States is in the middle of the pack, but rather that so many other countries have improved in the last three decades while the United States has stagnated.

Herkie / Flickr--CC

One might assume that with such well known craft beers available from brewers like Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Mo., and Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, Kan., there would be little room for other competition. But, craft brewing is on the rise in Kansas City, with many new microbreweries opening in the past year.

On Thursday's Central Standard host Brian Ellison looks at what is behind the Kansas City craft brewing trend and what the future looks like for these entrepreneurial ventures.


For-profit athletic clubs are claiming that tax exemptions for nonprofit organizations like the YMCA are unfair. In order to "level the playing field," two bills in Kansas have been proposed: one would exempt both for-profit and nonprofit sports clubs from paying taxes on property and a portion of sales; the other would simply remove tax exemption for nonprofit organizations like the YMCA.

For the 21+ crowd, Kansas City is full of entertainment choices. For youth however, the city lacks age-appropriate venues.

Recurring disturbances involving youth on the Plaza and other entertainment districts have caused the city to tighten the citywide curfew ordinance for youth. But the Kansas City area lacks all-ages venues and entertainment options for the city's youth.

On today's Central Standard, we discuss what activities are available to youth in Kansas City, and some initiatives and ideas that would expand those options.


The tragic death of actor and director Philip Seymour Hoffman has shed light on heroin and opiate use in America. Right here in Kansas City, opiate-based drugs are more popular than ever and the results have been devastating. Central Standard takes a look at why Kansas and Missouri residents are using these lethal substances and what impact heroin addiction has had on one local family.


The Missouri River levels are critically low. If the problem is not resolved soon, area utilities, levees and bridges could be in serious crisis . Today we discuss the effects of dropping water levels and the multimillion dollar expenditure needed to remedy the issue.


On Feb. 4, Congress passed the farm bill, a piece of legislature that will cut food stamps by $800 million a year, consolidate dozens of agriculture subsidy programs and provide crop insurance to farmers. Harvest Public Media's Jeremy Bernfeld share details on the changes to one of the largest spending measures congress passes.


  • Jeremy Bernfeld, multimedia editor for Harvest Public Media at KCUR

It’s been three years since the suicide of Sasha Menu Courey, a student at the University of Missouri. But revelations and questions have come to light in the last few weeks — allegations that Sasha had been raped by at least one fellow student, perhaps three members of the football team.

Colleges and universities serve several purposes: they are places to get credentials necessary for a career; they are  places to learn; they are homes. At a crucial time in their lives young adults live together, make memories, get in trouble and grow up.

On Wednesday's Central Standard, host Brian Ellison delves into campus housing  and how it's progressed over the last few decades, as students arrive with higher expectations and schools are trying to meet them.

We’ll also hear about new apartments catering to athletes at KU and other schools across the country.

More Solomon / Creative Commons

Who was William S. Burroughs? Some remember him as a controversial Beat writer; others remember his illicit drug habits and the murder of his second wife.

On Tuesday's Central Standard, we talk about the life of the infamous man from St. Louis, Mo. who traveled around the world and later settled in Lawrence, Kan.


Central Standard explores the possibility of  emotions and thoughts being more than just a brain function. Is there more to being human than just our physical realm?

Also, we bid farewell to KC Currents and take a look at what's ahead for Central Standard.


  • Susanna Rinard​, professor of philosophy at UMKC
  • Augustin Rayo, professor of philosophy at MIT

Will Missouri inmates on death row face death by firing squad someday? After a recent debacle in a Ohio execution and shortages of lethal injection drugs, legislators are considering alternative methods.

Host Brian Ellison talks to death penalty opponents. Later, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will discuss voter identification laws.   


Halfway through January, and it's a time for a serious question. Are you going to bear down and get started on that new year’s commitment to regular exercise and healthy eating? Or are you going to let this year's goal lapse and be forgotten?

On Tuesday's Central Standard, Brian Ellison talks with an exercise scientist and a behavior modification expert helps us understand how we can change those habits and why we usually don’t. You can learn why for so many of us, the resolutions are already over.


The Kansas City Chiefs season came to a stumbling, stuttering end on Saturday, January 4th. Everyone knew it would not be an easy game, but watching a 28-point lead turn into a one-point loss – the second-biggest playoff choke by any team in NFL history.  It was also the Chiefs' 8th playoff loss in a row that some might say was a fitting end to a season that started as hopefully as any season could and then went into something of a tailspin.