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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.

David Byrd Named DeKalb's Newest Police Chief

City of Dekalb
David Byrd at podium.

The search for DeKalb’s new police chief is finally over.



David Byrd is DeKalb’s newest police chief. The hiring of the Chicago native and 31-year veteran colonel with the Illinois State Police received no objections from DeKalb City Council.


City Manager Bill Nicklas supported Byrd’s nominations and said in a press release, "Our background work has revealed that he is a hands-on leader who prefers to meet and engage the communities he serves face-to-face, and in the locations and spaces where residents are most comfortable."


Before making his move to DeKalb official, Byrd worked extensively in northern Illinois. In his most recent post he served as the Illinois State Police’s Deputy Director of the Division of Patrol. He’s held several other titles with the state law enforcement including assistant deputy director for the Office of the Director and north region commander. 


The Community Search Committee reviewed 27 candidates which it then narrowed to two finalists. The two candidates then took part in a marathon day of interviews with two separate panels: first, with local law enforcement leaders from DeKalb county, Sycamore, and NIU; and second, with city employees.


Both candidates had hour-long interviews with Nicklas and the community search committee before back-to-back hour-long Q&As with officers from the DeKalb Police Department.


According to a press release from the City, Byrd was the community search committee's unanimous decision.


The DeKalb City Council’s selection of Byrd to Police Chief will represent the first person of color to lead the department in over 130 years since its founding.  


Byrd starts the job May 1.

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.