Jenna Dooley

Reporter, News Production Supervisor

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield.  She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.

SETI

Jill Tarter is an astronomer and Chair Emeritus for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. SETI stands for "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence." Tarter was the basis for the character played by Jodie Foster in the movie adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel "Contact." She will present the lecture "A Cosmic Perspective: Searching For Aliens, Finding Ourselves" at Fermilab in Batavia later this month. On this week's Friday Forum, she talks with WNIJ's Jenna Dooley about the search for life beyond Earth.

Jenna Dooley

Northern Illinois University recently held the 5th annual Unity Walk in DeKalb. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with participants about what it means to take part in the event.

The Unity Walk began five years ago following protests in Missouri over the death of Michael Brown, a resident of Ferguson. Brown was killed by a police officer, resulting in national news and tense relations between the community and law enforcement.

Jenna Dooley

The 2018 class of the Northern Illinois University Huskie Marching Band increased by more than 50 members from last year. Tom Bough has been NIU's Director of Athletic Bands for the past 14 years. On this week's Friday Forum, he talks about how he keeps everyone tapping to the same beat.

Jenna Dooley

The National Skydiving Championships are being held in northern Illinois this month. Hundreds of jumpers are using the dropzone at the Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle. On this week's Friday Forum, jumpers talk about their love for the sport.

Steve Verner is a tandem jump instructor. He has perfectly styled silver hair and wears tight fitting athletic wear. He looks like he's ready to run a marathon or bike a long trail. But his passion is more extreme: skydiving.

The third season of the Green Lens Environmental and Social Justice Film Series kicks off this week at DeKalb's Egyptian Theatre. The Film Screenings will be held at 7:00 p.m. followed by discussions on topics ranging from cleaning up oceans to the life and work of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Northern Illinois University Media Studies Professor Laura Vazquez says these films are a call to action.

"I told my students, if you are making a social justice film and it doesn't change someone's life, then you have failed as filmmaker," Vazquez said.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to transport, buy or sell any migratory bird, and its nests or eggs, among other provisions. It’s been around for 100 years. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley learns more about the Act and local efforts to conserve bird populations.

Winnebago County birder Lee Johnson has been bird banding for more than half of the treaty's lifespan and he has seen improvements in that time.

Photo Provided

 

Listeners of DeKalb-based "B95" (WDKB-FM) recently heard the final local newscast from longtime newsman Brian Adams. Adams accepted a position as a reporter at KNIA/KRLS in Knoxville, IA.

Adams was a newscaster at B95 for the past 22 years. During that time, he covered countless local government meetings as well as breaking news events, including blizzards, tornadoes, a monster truck accident and the fatal campus shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

Guy Stephens

Shabbona native and agronomist Sarah Carlson says decisions at the grocery store could lead to changes in what farmers plant. On this week's Friday Forum, Carlson talks with WNIJ's Jenna Dooley about her unique role working with farmers and large businesses to find ways to grow and market foods that enrich the land.

Victoria Lunacek

Chess is played by millions of people worldwide and can be enjoyed by even the youngest participants. Detroit native Daron Brown hopes a chess club in DeKalb will open doors for local kids he mentors. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Brown about his love of the game.

In the basement of DeKalb's public library, Daron Brown is wearing a white dress shirt and baby blue striped tie. He's "Mr. Brown" for the dozen or so pre-teen kids who are part of the club.

Carl Nelson

The Spanish Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses was held this past weekend at Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Angel Martinez, one of the organizers of the gathering.

This year's theme was "¡Sea Valiente!" which means "be brave" or "be courageous." Martinez says it's a fitting theme given the challenges that all humans face in life in general -- be it in school, at work, or within the family.

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.

WNIJ

There was a shake-up in leadership last summer at Northern Illinois University. President Doug Baker resigned, paving the way for Lisa Freeman to step in as acting president. At that time she said she would not seek the position on a long term basis, but that has since changed. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley learns more about Freeman's aspirations for the future.

Dr. Freeman says trustees approached her to consider the presidential post.

Victoria Lunacek

On July 15, 2013,  fire destroyed downtown Prophetstown in northwestern Illinois. Two boys were charged with starting the blaze. The small community has spent the last five years re-building from the devastation. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley heads back to Prophetstown for an update.

https://www.supremecourt.gov

One of the major stories to come out of Washington D.C. this week was President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Mitch Pickerill, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University.

Pickerill says the choice of the conservative Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy makes sense politically.

Jenna Dooley/WNIJ

Northern Illinois University bids farewell to its longtime staff meteorologist this week.

Gilbert Sebenste has been passionate about the weather for a long time. He says that, when he was four or five years old, he attended a picnic with his parents when the weather started to turn ominous.

“… then all of the sudden as I am riding a kiddie ride -- it was a helicopter ride that went about 20 feet above the ground -- and as I am spinning around up there, I look west and I see these angry, boiling clouds," he recalled. "I am like, ‘Oh, this isn’t good.’”

Northern Illinois University continues to get "written up" for the way it manages tracking of property and equipment. According to a compliance audit released Thursday through the state's Office of the Auditor General, an inventory certification reported 1,288 items ($1,624,740) of equipment could not be located by the university. The listing included approximately 520 computers, servers, CPUs, or other electronic storage devices.

This finding has been repeated since 2015.

Every two weeks, people can vote in a new poll celebrating the state’s various contributions to the world. It's part of the state's bicentennial celebration. This week’s poll asks voters to choose the state’s greatest innovation or invention. Entries include Twinkies, pinball, skyscrapers, and the TV remote. That’s not all, according to Chris Wills, a spokesman for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Steve Hager

The question of whether the bald eagle population is dwindling in the Midwest continues to confound bird watchers along the Mississippi River.

The organizer behind an annual winter count conducted in January by hundreds of volunteers revealed fewer young eagles along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.  

But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that the bald eagle recovery is progressing at an “impressive” rate.

Victor Yehling/WNIJ

Just a few days remain to educate residents about a major ballot issue in Rockford. In this week’s Friday Forum, Jenna Dooley talks with those involved in getting their message out to voters before they hit the polls on Tuesday.

As the spring primary approaches, more money is going into a ballot question that could change how Rockford leaders make major decisions on behalf of residents. It’s known as home rule and, if you live in Rockford, you no doubt have seen signs around the city asking you to vote either “yes” or “no” on the issue.

Victor Yehling/WNIJ

Officials are optimistic about voter turnout in this year’s primary election in Rockford.

Turnout for early voting in Rockford so far has been “above average,” according to Rockford Board of Elections Executive Director Stacey Bixby.

Early voting began Feb. 21 at the election office. A second location at Emmanuel Episcopal Church opened earlier this month. Since then, Bixby says nearly 1,500 people have voted early in the city.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20. So far, we’ve outlined the crowded races for Illinois Governor and Attorney General. On this week’s Friday Forum, we outline the rest of the statewide offices appearing on the ballot. They include Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Comptroller.

WNIJ continues to review important races in the upcoming Illinois Primary Election on March 20. Lisa Madigan has been the state’s attorney general for four terms and was elected as the first female to hold that office in the state’s history. She announced in the fall she would not seek re-election. On this week’s Friday Forum, we take a closer look at the crowded field vying to be the state's next top lawyer.

Steve Hager

An Illinois man behind a longstanding bald eagle count says the latest numbers are alarming. Federal officials say there may be other factors at play.

Chicago Tribune: Bald Eagles Came Back From Brink, But Are Numbers Dropping Again? An Illinois Researcher Fears So

Don’t be alarmed if you see massive wind turbines fall like giant trees along one of the busiest roads in northern Illinois.

There are dozens of wind turbines along Interstate 39 in Lee County, and the Paw Paw Fire Protection District wants drivers to know it’s no cause for panic when they start to come down.

The Mendota Hills Wind Farm, built in 2003, was the first utility-scale wind farm in the state of Illinois.

Drug Enforcement Administration

A northern Illinois coroner is growing increasingly worried about the breakdown of drugs related to overdose deaths.

According to Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz, 124 deaths were attributed to drug overdose last year compared with 96 in 2016.

Of those, he says there was a noticeable increase in deaths involving fentanyl with seven in 2016 and 63 in 2017. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid which the Drug Enforcement Administration says is 50 times more potent than heroin.

Jenna Dooley

On Thursday, students at the Spectrum Progressive School of Rockford held selfie sticks with cell phones while they roamed around capturing the normal sights of their classroom. Then, 3D creatures seemingly popped out of thin air right onto their screens-- from dinosaurs to spiders. It’s part of Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program. Google associates train local teachers who then take their students on the virtual adventures.

city of Rockford

There were 18 murders in 2017 compared with 26 murders in 2016. Other violent crimes, auto thefts, and property crimes also were down from the year before.

Still, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara and Police Chief Dan O'Shea think more can be done and want community engagement to be the focus for prevention this year.

"Obviously, we don't have a banner behind us saying it's 'mission accomplished,' McNamara said. "It is far from that, but I do think we are making great strides."

Chief O'Shea credits community support for those improvements.

Flickr user Luke Jones / "Railroad Tracks" (CC V 2.0) http://bit.ly/2FudahT

Plans for a passenger train linking Chicago and Iowa were sidetracked several years ago, but that hasn’t slowed efforts by some passionate rail enthusiasts to keep the vision alive.

Amtrak operated the Black Hawk line from 1974 to 1981. Before that, there was the Land O’Corn route between Chicago and Waterloo, Iowa, but that ended in the 1960s.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

More Rockford organizations are expressing their positions on a proposal to give city leaders more local control over finances.  

Quick recap: Home rule is available to Illinois communities interested in deciding, among other things, whether to levy local taxes and fees beyond those imposed by state government. Rockford voters got rid of home rule in 1983. This spring, voters will consider whether to bring it back.

Illinois lawmakers who represent Rockford have different opinions on whether it is in the best interest of residents for the city to return to home rule status. Voters will weigh in on the issue on the spring primary ballot. 

Home rule expands local control over taxing and borrowing beyond the laws passed in Springfield.

Rockford is one of just a few of the state’s larger municipalities that does not have that authority.  Voters stripped the city of home rule authority in 1983.

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