Chase Cavanaugh


Chase started in radio while earning his Master's in diplomacy and international commerce at the University of Kentucky.  He was bitten by the radio bug while volunteering at Radio Eye (a local equivalent to NIRIS) and soon became a reporter at WUKY. After four years of reporting in Kentucky's Bluegrass, Chase traveled north to join WNIJ as Morning Edition producer.  Chase reports on a variety of developments in our broadcast area but is particularly drawn to anything with a political or international connection.  He is also an avid board gamer.

Illinois State Senator Dave Syverson says the state’s inaction on a planned Hard Rock Casino in Rockford is putting the area at a competitive disadvantage.

Wisconsin’s governor approved a Ho-Chunk casino to go forward in Beloit, right across the state border. The General Assembly passed gaming expansion back in 2019, and the Gaming Board had a year to approve Rockford’s casino. But it’s been 19 months since that happened.

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees on Thursday unanimously approved extending NIU President Lisa Freeman’s contract through Fiscal Year 2025. The trustees praised her for advancing the school’s educational mission and her leadership during the pandemic. President Freeman said she wants to build upon this success. 

“With this contract renewal," she said, "I am so enthusiastic about the opportunity to build on our positive momentum and continue to work with students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends and partners to move NIU forward.”

A new book aims to shine a greater light on the history of Irish immigrants to Illinois. 

The work is a product of two people, Northern Illinois University history professor Sean Farrell, and his former doctoral student Mathieu Billings, who now works at the University of Indianapolis. Farrell said a key motivation behind the book, and its title, was to broaden the scope by which people see “The Irish in Illinois.” 

Done in collaboration with Spring 2021 Data Visualization Course, School of Art and Design, Northern Illinois University, Nestor Alvarez

Governments across Illinois are seeing large holes in their budgets due to COVID-19 restrictions. One area that’s seen a sharp drop is revenue from video gaming. 

Video gaming terminals are a regular sight at bars, restaurants and roadside shops around the state. They’ve brought a pretty penny not only to their operators, but also to local governments. This is because municipalities get 5% of the net terminal income.

Chase Cavanaugh

The two candidates for DeKalb mayor took part in a neighborhood forum Sunday. 

About a dozen Kensington Pointe residents gathered on a chilly day to hear from candidates Carolyn Morris and Cohen Barnes. They gathered on the front lawn of the Rev. Marty Marks, a pastor for Immanuel Lutheran Church. Marks said he personally knows both candidates and wanted to create an event that focused on commonalities. He said the results speak for themselves.

A former employee for the City of Rochelle pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of wire fraud from a nonprofit.

Several U.S. representatives from northeastern Illinois Friday argued for the passage of a massive COVID relief bill.

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood said the American Rescue Plan contains various forms of COVID-related aid for the nation, including more stimulus checks.

“It will send another round of $1400 direct payments in addition to the $600 payments that went out earlier this year following the December relief bill. This money makes a real difference for workers and their families and for the local businesses where they spend it.” 

U.S. Election Assistance Commission

The Illinois Board of Elections is being recognized by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for its cybersecurity efforts. 

The State put together the Cyber Navigator Program in response to a hack of the Board of Elections in 2016. Public Information Officer Matt Dietrich said it provides training and equipment to all 108 local election authorities, but also encourages collaboration. 


The Winnebago County Health Department reports there are continued efforts to increase local capacity to provide COVID-19 vaccines.

At a press conference covered by WREX-TV, the county’s public health administrator, Sandra Martell, said more than 4,000 vaccinations had been given out at the National Guard site on Sandy Hollow Road. The health department is also trying to expand vaccinations geographically.


A Republican who ran against Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger is preparing a 2022 campaign against him.

James Marter lost the 2018 GOP primary to the incumbent, but says Kinzinger’s recent attacks against former President Donald Trump and other members of his party have prompted him to run again. He discussed a campaign event in Princeton.

Illinois U.S Representative Cheri Bustos says it’s imperative that the U.S. House pass the next COVID-19 relief package.

The bill is known as the American Rescue Plan and will provide various forms of aid. Bustos said this includes funding for cities to address deficits and immediate need.

"Towns like Peoria having to not fill Fire Department jobs. In Rockford, they weren’t able to purchase new fire and police vehicles."

A coronavirus mass-vaccination center opens Tuesday  in Rockford at the site of the old K-Mart on Sandy Hollow Road.

Members of the Illinois National Guard will be on hand to administer COVID-19 vaccines as they are allocated. Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate Nadeau, at a press conference covered by WREX, said this is part of a greater state effort to roll out vaccinations.

“We have a long way to go to get everyone vaccinated, but this site is just one example of how we’re going to close that gap and get [the] vaccine to the most needed.” 

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees approved a minor tuition increase for undergraduate students entering in the coming school year. This comes after five years with no change in rate. NIU President Lisa Freeman presented the rate proposal to the board.

“In the context of NIU’s commitment to accessibility, affordability and student success, the recommendation for this request is a 1.5% increase in base tuition and no change in undergraduate differential tuition rates.” 

This means the per-credit hour rate for new students will go up by $5.23 in the fall. 

The Federal Aviation Administration is offering grant funding to airports across the state to help with COVID-related expenses.

This applies to commercial airports and smaller general aviation facilities. Renee Riani is the manager of DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport. She said funding last year from the CARES Act addressed areas such as personnel costs. But the roughly $13,000 available this year will help with snow equipment.

A new bill could aid Illinois business owners in creating succession plans.

Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos helped introduce the legislation. She said it’s important, especially during the pandemic, to have provisions if an owner retires, falls ill or dies.

“The whole idea here is that you have almost six in 10 business owners don’t have a succession plan. These are people who in some cases, they own the only business of its kind in a community.”

Chase Cavanaugh

2020 was the year Chicago Rockford International Airport saw the single largest amount of cargo pass through. 

Last year, 2.7 billion pounds of cargo transported to and travel through the facility. This is compared to 2.3 billion in 2019. Deputy Director of Operations and Planning Zach Oakley said it’s a sign of local economic growth.

Chase Cavanaugh

2020 was the year Chicago Rockford International Airport saw the single largest amount of cargo pass through. 

Last year, 2.7 billion pounds of cargo transported to and travel through the facility. This is compared to 2.3 billion in 2019. Deputy Director of Operations and Planning Zach Oakley said it’s a sign of local economic growth.

The Winnebago County Health Department announced mixed progress this week when it comes to COVID-19.

At a Wednesday press conference covered by WREX-TV, the Department noted that it did not receive its allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine this week. So they had to postpone some residents’ appointments as a result. However, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara complimented a low positivity rate of 4.4% .

City of Rockford

Nine candidates for Rockford alderman recently spoke at a local forum in advance of the state primaries later this month.

The forum was hosted by Live Free Rockford. It featured a diverse group from different ward elections. Though many didn’t have their opponents present, they spoke at length about their priorities for the office.

The Winnebago County Health Department says vaccination efforts against COVID-19 continue. Meanwhile, the area’s positivity rate for the coronavirus has shrunk.

The Department reported 69 new cases of COVID-19, but no new deaths. Furthermore, the area’s positivity rate is only 4.7%. At a press conference carried by WREX-TV, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara praised this milestone.

Pixabay user qimono

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected incidences of substance abuse, and how people struggling with addiction are treated. 

Social distancing and isolation have become everyday features of the pandemic. These stresses, along with factors like job loss, have resulted in more instances of substance abuse. That’s according to Northwestern Medicine Licensed Clinical Social Worker Marissa Kirch. She said more people are drinking greater amounts of alcohol, or taking up the habit if they haven’t before.

DeKalb County Health Department

DeKalb County is making some progress on vaccinations.

As of Thursday evening, the Health Department reports they’ve given out vaccines to at least 2,700 people in phases 1A and 1B. That first category consists of health care workers and long-term care residents. Public Health Administrator Lisa Gonzalez said they’re not quite finished with that group.

A northern Illinois county is ramping up COVID-19 vaccination efforts as it moves to Phase 1B of the State’s plan.

Winnebago County has already administered the full vaccine course to at least 5,000 people. The first group consisted of health care personnel and those in long-term care facilities. Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said health care providers will reach out directly to the next group. There won’t be walk-ins.

A man running for DeKalb Township Supervisor is challenging a decision by the township to not certify him for the ballot.

Jim Luebke filed a Statement of Economic Interest before the designated deadline, but the accompanying receipt of his filing was not in his packet by that date. Luebke said Township Clerk Lynne Kunde initially approved his candidacy after verifying the Statement was submitted on time.

The Internal Revenue Service is warning residents to be careful of scams related to the latest round of stimulus checks, also known as economic impact payments. 

The scams take a variety of forms including phishing e-mails, text messages and robocalls. Candace Kowal is the assistant special agent in charge for criminal investigations at the IRS’ Chicago field office. She said scammers may also try to impersonate IRS employees over the phone. 

Illinois U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos says President Biden’s inauguration is a chance to move forward. 

At a press conference today, Congresswoman Bustos praised the tone of the inauguration and the accompanying events. She complimented poet Amanda Gorman’s work and emphasized the importance of President Biden’s call for unity. 

A group of U.S. lawmakers announced the reintroduction Tuesday of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act

The bill was originally authored by Senator Dick Durbin. It passed in the House but failed in the Senate. In the wake of the recent attack on the Capitol, Durbin said addressing the hazards of domestic terrorism is a bipartisan issue.

Northern Illinois University

Turning the conversation away from partisanship may be key to an effective speech from the new president.

That’s according to Dr. Ferald Bryan, a professor at Northern Illinois University specializing in political rhetoric. He says Joe Biden particularly looks up to Robert Kennedy, and a similar tone could begin the process towards bridging the divide among Americans.

The Winnebago County Health Department reported Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccination is proceeding smoothly. 

Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell said among the different health care systems, more than 10,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered. During a COVID-19 update livestreamed on WREX, Martell announced 104 new cases.

"And unfortunately, we have lost two additional of our community residents, which brings our total death count to 380," she said.

U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois underlined Wednesday his decision to vote for impeachment against President Donald Trump. He said the January 6 attack on the Capitol was the culmination of years of misinformation and admitted he was unsure who else in the GOP would vote for the measure. 

“If there was not a sense of fear among many of my friends out here about political ramifications, there would be a lot more," he said in a call with reporters on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, I think this is a vote that doesn’t need politics, but unfortunately, is infected by it.”