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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

A Janesville Pandemic Induced Event Returns This Year


A Janesville, Wisconsin historical society is bringing back its weekly outdoor music and art attraction through this fall.

Last year the Rock County Historical Society introduced “Artrageous Wednesdays.”  

Tim Maahs is the executive director of the society. He said the Fine Arts Festival they’d held for over 60 years couldn’t take place after COVID-19 hit. 

“And I really did not want to put our relationships with the artists at risk,” Maahs explained. “I wanted to help them like they've helped us. So, this was really born out of that last year -- to make this happen quite quickly.” 

Maahs said the society was encouraged to make this a seasonal event. Multiple artists and musicians will take part each week, but Maahs said spectators may have other surprises.  

“So, one of our deviations from art last year, like three-dimensional art was authors. We did “Artrageous Wednesday” authors edition,” he said. “And we featured local artists and they could come out and sell their books that they had written in are published.” 

The free weekly event starts May 26 and continues every Wednesday through Sept. 29. It takes place outdoors at the Lincoln-Tallman Carriage House on the society’s campus. Thursdays are designated back-up days in case it rains. Updates will be available on the organization’s Facebook page.       

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.