Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs announced the winners of the 2018 Cream of the Crop Photo Contest. The annual contest encourages young photographers to share their vision of agriculture in the state.

The winning entries will be featured in the Treasurer’s tent on the north side of Brian Raney Avenue during the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. The fair kicks off on Aug. 9 with the Twilight Parade and ends on Aug. 19.

There were three age-based categories in this year’s photo contest: ages 8-10, 11-14, and 15-18.

Among the area winners:

Ages 11-14

Police say weekend shootings in Chicago have left at least 11 people dead and about 70 wounded.


The violence peaked early Sunday, including one shooting on the city's South Side that injured eight people.

Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, says one lesson from a wave of weekend violence is that people who live in neighborhoods where the shootings occurred have to be willing to name potential suspects.

This Year's Weather Could Boost Success Of Cover Crops

Aug 6, 2018

If you have been debating on the idea of cover crops, this might be the year to give them a try.

Cover crops are planted after a harvest to enrich and protect the soil. Types of cover crops include cereal rye, wheat and ryegrass. Phillip Alberti is a Crop Science Educator with the University of Illinois Extension. He says cover crops are a great way to improve the overall health of farm fields.


At Springfield High School, Ethan Doyle is an honors student, a member of the baseball team, the investment club, and an elite student group known as Superintendent’s Roundtable. But perhaps his most notable accomplishment came during the spring of his sophomore year, when he assassinated more of his classmates than anybody else.

"My mom didn’t really care but my dad, he was hyped up about it a little bit. He was excited,” Ethan says.

Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum on Facebook

The Springfield and Central Illinois African-American History Museum will debut a new exhibit detailing the 1908 Springfield Race Riots.

The exhibit will be unveiled Saturday evening as the 110th anniversary of the event approaches on Aug. 14-15, The State Journal-Register reported.

Flickr User David Wilson / (CC x 2.0)

Environmental regulators aren't sure where a northwestern Indiana steel mill's emissions end up after the pollution is released by the sprawling mill, which is a major source of industrial lead and benzene emissions, a newspaper has found.


It’s been a recommendation for years, but now it’s law in Illinois. Children may not be flipped forward in their car seats until they are two years old unless they are at least 40 pounds or 40 inches tall. 

Dr. Doug Carlson, the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics for SIU School of Medicine, said science proves this is the right decision.

A northern Illinois high school student and her father are suing a school district and several administrators alleging her civil rights were violated when she showed support for gun rights during an anti-school violence walkout.


The Sound of Science - "Allergies"

Aug 3, 2018

Kate: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

Sam: Kate, today we have a have a question that I am particularly interested in knowing the answer to. The question comes from Jackson: Why do some people have allergies and some people do not?

Kate: I know why you are interested, Sam. Don’t you have a severe allergy to some types of seeds?

Sam: Yeah, I have a terrible allergy to sunflower seeds and it can be a real pain in the neck. Why does that type of reaction happen to me but not to everyone?

Tammy Duckworth


Senator Tammy Duckworth was one of 23 lawmakers to introduce legislation earlier this week that would block the sale of blueprints for 3D-printed firearms. 

Speaking on The 21st show, the Illinois Democrat says she hopes to prevent the spread of 3-D printed firearms by blocking the online instructions to create them.

“They're dangerous not just for the potential victims but also for the shooters, they, these guns also tend to blow up.”

New Laws Digitize Medicaid Applications

Aug 3, 2018
Sarah Jesmer

Governor Bruce Rauner signed two bills Thursday afternoon that will bring changes to the state health system. These bills,  SB 2385 and SB 2913, are expected to make the long-term care application process faster and cheaper. 

Victoria Lunacek

Republican Bob Pritchard resigned his post in the Illinois House this summer. He’s now a member of the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. When he’s not serving constituents, Pritchard, of Hinckley, can be found on his family farm. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Pritchard as he reflects on his time in the General Assembly and looks ahead to his new role at NIU.

A row of bright green farm equipment lines the back of a large shed. It’s all John Deere on this farm.

Checks have been sent out to more than 900 Illinois workers to cover back pay owed since 2011.


Comptroller Susana Mendoza said the checks were issued to Department of Public Health workers. Mendoza said the department is the first state agency to issue vouchers to her office, enabling the money to be paid.

"As soon as other agencies submit vouchers, we will get the back pay checks out quickly," she said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's office said some agencies are working through "technical issues" to get the back pay out.

NIU Board Of Trustees Seeks Community Feedback

Aug 2, 2018

The NIU Board of Trustees is considering Acting President Dr. Lisa Freeman for the university’s permanent president. They are seeking feedback from the university community before making a decision.

Trustees will attend listening sessions throughout August with faculty, students, alumni, and other community leaders. The schedule for the listening sessions is as follows:

August 2: Operating Staff Council

August 2: Alumni & Foundation Boards      

August 14: Senior Roundtable

August 14: Chairs/Directors/First-line Supervisors 

Powering Lives Network - ComEd

Teams of girls will race solar-powered go-karts converted from recycled refrigerators this Saturday in Chicago. They got help from students at Northern Illinois University.

NIU engineering students worked with the girls participating in the ComEd Icebox Derby. NIU students had been working on designs since last September.

A planned visit to Springfield, Illinois, later this month by former Vice President Joe Biden, is proving to be a bigger attraction than expected.

Biden's visit on Aug. 16 is proving so popular that plans have changed to accommodate more people. He is keynoting the Illinois Democratic County Chairs' Association brunch at a Springfield hotel. The brunch kicks off the Illinois State Fair's Democrat Day.

Peter Medlin

When we think about preventing domestic violence and human trafficking, we may not think that one of the first lines of defense against these issues is standing at the front of our classrooms.

But who is in a better position to catch the initial warning signs of these issues and take action than the people who often spend as much time with kids as their parents? That’s exactly what area educators from every age range and every discipline learned how to do this week.

 A first-term Republican state representative and member of an Illinois House anti-sexual harassment task force resigned Wednesday after an ex-girlfriend claimed that he posted nude photos of her on a fake social media account under her name.


Rep. Nick Sauer of Lake Barrington tendered a letter of resignation Wednesday afternoon to the House clerk's office.

Andrew Villegas/WFYI

Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a law requiring public schools to allow parents to administer medical marijuana at school to eligible children.


The Republican took action Wednesday. It allows parents or guardians to administer a "cannabis-infused product" to a student on school property or a school bus if both parent and child have been cleared by the state's medical marijuana law.

"Go beyond the headlines" is the invitation from On Point, a news and issues program produced by WBUR in Boston. Next month, the program gets a new host -- Dave Folkenflik -- and a new station: WNIJ.

NPR listeners are familiar with Folkenflik's reports on the news media during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. On Aug. 24, he'll start a new job as the Friday host for On Point, which will air from 11 a.m. to Noon Central Time on WNIJ.

Flickr user Vu Nguyen / "Epi Pen" (CC v. 2.0)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a law protecting health professionals who provide police officers with life-saving epi-pens.

The Republican signed an expansion of what is known as Annie LeGere's Law. Thirteen-year-old Annie LeGere died in August 2015 after a severe allergic reaction during a sleepover. Annie's reaction likely was to something she ate.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

The Freeport Art Museum created an artist-in-residence position. So what does that mean, at least in Freeport?

In the city's downtown, a grassy vacant lot gets some attention. A group of young women, coached by several adults, spray-painted phrases like “good vibes only" and "women in power" on the exposed side wall of a building next door. 

Brian Nissen owns the building, where he and his wife run Abet Books & Games. He was happy to give permission for the mural.

Kinzinger Visits DeKalb On Regional Tour

Aug 1, 2018
Sarah Jesmer

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger is touring parts of his district this week. That included a stop at Northern Illinois University on Tuesday.

The 16th District Republican visited a new lab that recently opened at NIU. Officials hope the hands-on experience for students and researchers will prepare people for labs like Batavia’s Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL.

Kinzinger is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He said he wanted to meet people who interact with federal funding and STEM programs.

TransCanada Corp. is digging up a portion of the Keystone oil pipeline in South Dakota after an inspection identified potential issues with the pipeline's coating.


Rockford's Mid-Year Crime Statistics Are Mixed

Jul 31, 2018
Peter Medlin

Violent crime numbers are down in Rockford, but the number of property crimes is up. Rockford city officials released mid-year crime statistics on Tuesday. They show a decrease in robberies, aggravated assaults, shots fired and overall violent crime from January to June of this year.

Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea says there is still work to be done to fix the city’s violence problem.

Bridge Work Continues Along I-88

Jul 31, 2018
Victoria Lunacek

The Illinois Tollway is repairing 17 local crossroad bridges carrying traffic over the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), between Illinois Route 251 near Rochelle and Illinois Route 56 near Sugar Grove.

Work is underway on five local bridges over I-88:

First Rabid Bat Confirmed In DeKalb County

Jul 31, 2018
Mark Bowler, University of California, Irvine

A bat that bit a dog in Cortland tested positive for rabies. This is the first rabid bat confirmed in DeKalb County this year. 

Greg Maurice is the Director of Health Protection for the DeKalb County Health Department. He says fewer than five rabid bats are found in the county each year, but pet and human contact with the animals should be taken seriously.

“The rabies virus is in the saliva, basically, of the bat and so the saliva would get into an open cut that you would have, things like that. It could still transmit the virus without even directly biting you.”

Winnebago County State's Attorney's office

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato says a former Rockford police officer is one of two people facing charges for an armed robbery.


Former officer Yuliya Kuznets and former Rockford Metro Enforcement officer James Akerman are accused of committing armed robbery at the Van Galder bus depot July 22. Kuznets also worked for Rockford Metro Enforcement, which is a private security company. The two quit the company earlier this year.



A new Illinois law will give gifted children the chance to move ahead in public schools.

A federal judge ruled Friday that the U.S. Justice Department does not have the authority to withhold grants from the city of Chicago because of its policies that provide sanctuary to immigrants.

The city sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions last August after the Justice Department ordered Chicago and other sanctuary cities to give 48-hours' notice before releasing from custody immigrants who entered the country illegally. The Justice Department also sought access to jails by federal agents and the sharing of citizenship information.