Susan Stephens

Reporter, All Things Considered Host

Susan’s parents should have known she’d end up in radio: her favorite toys were tape recorders, cameras, notepads, and books. Many years later, she’s an award-winning reporter at her favorite radio station. Formerly WNIJ’s News Director, she asked to return to the role of full-time reporter/anchor/utility player in 2010 (less paperwork, more reporting!). Her #1 goal is to tell the most compelling stories in the fewest words possible…all the better if a little humor can be thrown into the mix.  It should come as no surprise, then, that she can whip up a haiku for any occasion. She also enjoys the Detroit Tigers, learning pioneer skills (Gardening, canning, and the like. Just in case.), traveling with friends, and pretending she’s going to get around to playing her theremin.

Graphic Design by Teresa Chin/Youth Radio

Recording Your Interview

Wear headphones!

Ideally, your mic should be about four inches away from your subject’s mouth: that’s about a fist-width away. Keep it in roughly the same place throughout the interview. Angle the mic slightly so they are not speaking straight down it.

Never ever ever give up the mic. Do not let them hold the mic. Ever.

Keep the mic as steady as possible to avoid handling noise. Or use a mic stand or mic boom.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

We live in uncivil times: There are more ways than ever to insult and be insulted by people with different views. That’s why a national initiative called “Choose Civility” was started. Rockford kicked off its own take on the movement Tuesday night.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A DeKalb County judge has set dates for hearings in two cases involving Jack McCullough, the Seattle resident who was convicted of the 1957 kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph of Sycamore. That conviction was vacated after a review last year showed he could not have committed the crime. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

More than 1,000 people marched through downtown Rockford today as part of the national Women's March movement. Women, men, and children carried signs, shouted slogans, and stuck to the sidewalks in the peaceful gathering. 

Organizers say the purpose of the march was to support women's rights, as well as specific issues such as equal pay, access to health care, and uniting a diverse city like Rockford.

whitehouse.gov

President Obama holds what the White House bills as his final news conference this afternoon. NPR and WNIJ will bring it to you live beginning at 1:00. 

A spokesman for Obama told CBS News the president has called this press conference because he wants to say farewell to the White House press corps and "show them the respect they've earned." 

You can listen to WNIJ's coverage on 89.5 FM and WNIJ.org

U.S. Congress

We kick off a new series on WNIJ this morning: the Friday Forum. Today, we catch up with two members of the U.S. House from northern Illinois, just as the 115th Congress is getting underway. 

Republican Adam Kinzinger represents the 16th district, which stretches from the Wisconsin state line to the Indiana state line. It includes portions of Rockford, DeKalb, and Dixon. Democrat Cheri Bustos represents the 17th district. She just started her third term representing the western Illinois area that runs along the Mississippi River and reaches into portions of Rockford and Peoria.

Services for a long-time Rockford radio personality are being held Saturday. Mark Mayhew died Tuesday, one week before his 61st birthday. He had suffered a heart attack last week. 

Mayhew was a reporter and a talk show host with WNTA for 20 years, where he earned the nickname “Mr. Know-It-All.” Most recently, he was an assignment editor at WREX television.

U.S. Congress

 

U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos is one of a handful of Democrats considering a run for Illinois governor. She says although she was just sworn in for her third term in Congress, she'd give it up to run for governor – if she's the person most likely to beat incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner.  

 

Flickr user Edward Simpson / cc by 2.0

It’s the one night of the year Winnebago County residents are happy to find themselves in the back of a squad car – it’s the Sheriff’s department’s annual New Year’s Eve Ride Home program.

If you’re out at the bar, had a few too many drinks, and your designated driver has ditched you, calling the Sheriff’s department for a ride is not usually your first instinct.

Winnebago County Sheriff's Department

Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies are guarding a man in a Rockford hospital. He’s suspected of killing a 16-year-old Machesney Park's Rebecca Finkenhofer and shooting her grandmother Tuesday night.

Michael Mernack, 36, was shot by Winnebago County sheriff’s deputies after they were called to a Machesney Park home. They say he was armed.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year. To advocates in Rockford, the Winter Solstice symbolizes the harshest challenges for the homeless in their city. Wednesday, they held their annual memorial for homeless people who died this year.

Richard Reed was there to remember his friend Humberto, who was just 31 when he died in April. He recalled that he was “a good pool shooter, a good friend, a nice and kind person. And I’m thankful that I knew him.”

Department of Justice / whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama has pardoned one Illinois resident and shortened the sentences of seven other Illinoisans convicted of federal crimes.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation / greatlakesbasin.net

What’s the Great Lakes Basin Railroad and why should I care?

The GLBR is a proposed railway that, if you live in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, or northwest Indiana, you’ve either never heard of or have spent a lot of time learning about over the last year.

Under the current route proposal, the Great Lakes Basin Railroad would enter Kankakee County, Illinois, just below the Will County line, traveling west-southwest to enter Grundy County a couple of miles above its southern boundary.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Over the past year, through three iterations of route proposals, many landowners were outraged when they learned their homes and farms were in the path of a railroad that would divert freight traffic around the Chicago area. They took that anger to a series of sometimes raucous public hearings.

But it’s easy to lose sight of the individuals in a crowd. This isn’t just a gang of rabble-rousers; these are real people. So we met with opponents of the Great Lakes Basin Railroad on their own turf: turf that the rail company would like to sink its tracks into.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Two Wisconsin lawmakers say they are looking into changing state law to prevent a proposed railroad project from forcing people to sell their land. The Great Lakes Basin Railroad would swing 261 miles through Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin in an attempt to relieve train congestion in the Chicago area.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Northern Illinois University campus community got a look Monday at the next phase of a plan that will shape the campus for years to come. It’s called Program Prioritization, and it’s a review of all academic and administrative programs at NIU.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Imagine an object that could help some students improve their attendance. Other students will learn leadership skills. Still others will discover how to become valuable employees some day. And everyone smells better.

That object? A basket of laundry. A humble chore is changing lives in one high school.

Beloit Memorial High School looks a lot like the old factories that sprawl across this city just north of  the Illinois/Wisconsin border. It’s huge.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

About 100 people packed a meeting room this weekend at Midway Village Museum in Rockford to talk about the realities of racism in their community. It’s part of a year-long collaboration between the Rockford Register Star and WNIJ. The Register Star’s executive editor Mark Baldwin says the idea behind the discussion is to bring people together for a thoughtful, productive conversation. People can look each other in the eye, not just type at each other on social media.

Rockford Register Star

Assembling a police force that “looks like the community” is an important goal for many American cities. But it can be a slow process. 11% of Rockford’s police force is black, compared to 21% of the overall population.

Rockford Register Star

Unemployment rates in Rockford tend to be among the highest in northern Illinois. For African Americans, that rate is nearly double.

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with former Rockford Register Star reporter Brian Leaf about what’s being done to remedy that.  It was one of Leaf’s last stories as a reporter for the paper and is part of our collaboration “Race in the Rock River Valley.”

Max Gersch, Sunny Strader / Rockford Register Star

Overt racism is usually pretty easy to spot. But there’s another less-obvious type of racist behavior that can also hurt.  WNIJ and the Rockford Register Star are kicking off a year-long collaboration called “Race in the Rock River Valley” with an examination of “microaggressions.”

rrstar.com

This weekend, the Rockford Register Star -- in partnership with WNIJ News -- kicks off a year-long series on race in the Rock River Valley. 

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with Register Star Executive Editor Mark Baldwin about the reasons behind the project. The series kicks off in the newspaper Sunday, Nov. 13. Tuesday on WNIJ, we’ll hear from Rockford residents about their experiences with “microaggressions.”

NIU

A Northern Illinois University student has reported that four men in a truck harassed him, using racial slurs and displaying a shotgun and a Nazi flag, and the university confirms that police are investigating.

NIU learned on Friday of a Facebook post about the alleged incident, which took place during the noon hour Thursday just off campus in a parking lot in the 100 block of North Annie Glidden Road. The student was not injured.

http://www.ci.freeport.il.us/

Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz says it’s time to make way for new leaders. He announced Thursday he will NOT run for re-election. 

Gitz was elected in 2013: he also served two terms as mayor, from 1997 - 2005. Gitz says he’s ready for a career change and had made up his mind before Tuesday’s election. That’s when Freeport voters decided to change to a city manager style government, making their mayor a part-time position.  

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

If you couldn’t make it to Chicago Friday to celebrate the Cubs world championship, don’t despair. You’ll get another chance to celebrate Sunday, but on a smaller scale.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Is the Jack-o-Lantern on your doorstep a little overripe? Some communities want you to compost your moldering pumpkins. 

The DeKalb County Health Department's Solid Waste and Recycling Program encourages people to put them out with yard waste and offers three drop-off sites:

• Fire Station #2 - 1154 South 7th Street, DeKalb

• City Garden Plots, west of Fire Station #3 - 950 W. Dresser Road, DeKalb

• The southeast corner of North 7th Street and Oak Street, DeKalb

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

DeKalb County voters will choose their top prosecutor November 8th. State’s Attorney Richard Schmack is being challenged by Republican Rick Amato.

Campaign websites, social media

The 69th District covers an area of far northern Illinois and includes the communities of Belvidere, Caledonia, Capron, Cherry Valley, Loves Park, Machesney Park, Roscoe, South Beloit, and Timberlane. Republican Joe Sosnowski has represented the district since 2010.

This year, Sosnowski is being challenged by Democrat Angelique Bodine of Poplar Grove. She says she’s running because of her frustration with the state budget impasse, and she pledges to stand up for working families.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The man in charge of the Cook County Jail says correctional facilities can do a much better job dealing with inmates who have mental health issues. Sheriff Tom Dart spoke to the League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford last night about his decade of efforts to support people with mental illnesses who end up in his jail. 

Dart says budget cuts for mental health programs have made things more difficult.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Imagine a presidential debate that is civil and about issues. That’s what happened Friday at Jefferson High School in Rockford, where students Andrea Stout and Haifa Ali debated.

They weren’t pretending to be the current presidential candidates: Instead, they represented the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties.

The two candidates answered questions about immigration, voting rights, higher education, and the economy.

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