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.

Simon Cunningham, licensed under CC BY 2.0 /

Illinois State Representative Jeff Keicher wants residents to learn more about their property taxes.

The event is designed to educate residents about how local governments value their property, and in turn, how much is due in taxes. Keicher says it will also detail how residents can appeal the amount if they feel it’s inaccurate.

Illinois State Police

The Illinois State Police is looking to bolster its ranks with new troopers, both rookie and experienced.

ISP is currently taking applications for two different classes of cadets. One would be their standard 26-week training regimen, and the other is a "fast-track" program for those with previous experience in law enforcement. Trooper Aldo Schumann is the Northern Recruitment and Internship Coordinator.

Chase Cavanaugh

Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital has just acquired a precision surgical robot.

Known as a da Vinci, it consists of multiple arms equipped with different instruments for surgery, such as scissors and forceps. Dr. Ricardo Soares was trained on the system, and said using it takes more time than a conventional surgery. But he said the robot can allow for a procedure that doesn’t require as much time for recovery.

Flickr user Michael Chen "Pills" (CC BY 2.0)

$11.5 million is headed to Illinois to combat the opioid crisis. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than half will go toward increasing access to behavioral health treatment, with a focus on substance abuse.





Visits to the emergency room for asthma vary widely across Illinois. One reason could be how it's treated.

Asthma is an inflammatory lung condition that can cause bouts of coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, a patient's airways swell shut, requiring a visit to the emergency room.

The Illinois Hospital Report Card tracks these types of visits. Between 2015-2017, Stephenson County had among the highest rates of visits in the state.


Legalized sports betting will soon come to Illinois as part of the state's new gambling expansion law.

Sports wagering is nothing new. But in the U.S., the practice has generally been illegal outside of a few specific venues. That changed last year when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. It allows states to legalize sports betting.

In Illinois, there are several companies eager to enter the market. But casinos lobbied hard against allowing them unfettered access. State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) explains.

City of Rockford

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara has announced the 2019 Mayor's Hunger Luncheon.

The event will take place Tuesday, October 1st,  with McNamara providing the keynote speech.  Afterwards, the city will provide a simple lunch of soup, salad and bread.  The luncheon is intended to raise awareness of, and funds for, those suffering from food insecurity.

Last year's event raised about $10,000, and McNamara said he hopes this year's luncheon can provide even more aid.


Six new casinos are planned for Illinois. Lawmakers expect hefty tax revenue, but the casinos also raise the risk of problem gambling. 

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Illinois raised its per-gallon gasoline tax at the beginning of July and it’s already having an effect on state prices.

AAA reports the current state average is around $3.14 per gallon, and may be driving some border residents to get their fuel in other states. GasBuddy petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan says the change came quickly.

“Average prices shot up noticeably within the first 24 hours but it took almost 48-72 hours for stations to fully pass along the state’s 19 cent per gallon increase in gasoline tax,” he said. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill at the end of June that allows six new casinos and legalizes sports betting. Rockford is the site of one such casino, and it could significantly contribute to local and state revenue.

A comprehensive gambling bill has been a repeated priority in the state legislature for several years. One of its biggest supporters has been Republican State Sen. Dave Syverson. He says a major concern is gambling dollars being lost to surrounding states. 

Chase Cavanaugh

A team at Northern Illinois University has created a remote lab for high school students to learn about energy efficiency.

The lab looks like a toy house with miniature appliances, like a model washing machine or an air conditioner made out of computer cooling fans. Students can turn these appliances on and off via the internet, and get various readings. These include how much power the appliances are using and the difference in temperature if the house is using a ceiling fan or air conditioner. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Rockford Monday morning to mark the start of the process toward building a new casino in the area.

Organizers handed out playing cards and poker chips that read "J.B. Bet On Us" and "Our Governor Is Aces." A bill he signed last week allows for 6 new casinos statewide, mostly in cities near the Illinois border. Pritzker said casino revenue is a key component of his capital plan:

Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford is moving ahead with its plans to build a casino after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an expanded gambling bill into law Friday.

Mayor Tom McNamara says the city has 120 days from the bill’s signing to submit applications for the casino’s location and operator to the Illinois Gaming Board.  McNamara says the city is working to get its Request for Proposals out by July 4th.

“If we can get it out by Monday, that would be even more spectacular. But it’s a tight timeframe," he said. "A lot of work needs to go into this, obviously, because you’ve got one shot at this.”

Starting in July, Illinois will not allow anyone under 21 to buy tobacco products. 

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the measure in April, which will make Illinois the eighth state to raise the smoking age to this level. The 18-21 demographic is significant for both smoking habits and sales. Illinois Office of Health Promotion Deputy Director Conny Mueller Moody explains.

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Republican Jeff Keicher is the freshman Representative for the State's 70th House District, which includes parts of DeKalb, Kane, and Boone counties. He sat down in the WNIJ studios to discuss the end of the recent legislative session.

He said quite a lot was accomplished, considering the position his party was in.

Chase Cavanaugh

A federal prison in Thomson, Illinois is looking to expand its workforce, but they're facing difficulty enticing workers to settle down locally.

Administrative United States Penitentiary, Thomson was built in 2001. It sat empty for years until it was bought by the federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012. The prison has slowly boosted its hiring and operations since 2015. Local residents were optimistic about a new jobs pipeline, and Thomson Village President Vicky Trager says there's solid evidence of new hires.

Chase Cavanaugh

Schools are putting more emphasis on STEM education, but that doesn't mean they're leaving the liberal arts or interpersonal skills behind.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and educators at all levels are encouraging students to study these subjects. Much of this has to do with the economic growth of Silicon Valley and the higher salaries that jobs in the tech sector can provide. Exposing students to these more advanced subjects can start as early as elementary and middle school.

Democrats dominate both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, but Republicans were able to get some of their measures passed in the final days of the legislative session.

Republicans had reservations, or even opposition, to several Democratic bills, such as the legalization of recreational marijuana.  But House Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer says his party was able to get support from across the aisle for reforms in conjunction with the budget.

Illinois General Assembly

Democratic State Senator Julie Morrison is optimistic about the passage of a bill that would reform how the state handles Firearm Owner Identification Cards.

Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Department of Agriculture recently treated several northern Illinois counties for gypsy moths.


Starved Rock State Park will face crowds and intermittent closures this Memorial Day weekend. 

The park already receives many visitors at this time of year, but IDNR spokeswoman Rachel Torbert says recent flooding has put their main parking lot under water.

“About 650 fewer parking spots this Memorial Day Weekend, which means an already busy weekend with quite a few patrons visiting the park is going to be even busier with travel delays and possible closures when parking fills up at the park,” she said.

Anderson Mikos Architects

Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb could have a new breast health center by the fall.

Officials with Northwestern Medicine say the center is meant to increase breast cancer screening rates in DeKalb County. That rate is 65%, compared to a statewide average of 78%. The center will be a buildout of 6,000 square feet on the hospital office building's first floor.

Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful

Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful is once again accepting paper, plastic, and glass at its recycling center in Rockford. 

The nonprofit’s development director Beverly Broyles says they had to temporarily stop accepting the waste because their partners weren’t able to export it to China. Broyles says the group worked out an alternative arrangement with Rock River Disposal.

“That’s going to be a much more feasible operation for us to do, and we’re also able to work with Paper Recovery Services and have a partnership with them to take our paper products,” she said.

"Boats" by Flickr User a.dombrowski / (CC X 2.0)

It’s National Safe Boating Week.

Groups like Illinois Conservation Police are stepping up safety education campaigns for state residents headed out on the water this spring. Sergeant Chris Stone says a major issue is boating under the influence, but he’s also seen boaters with inadequate safety gear. 

"A high percentage of boating fatalities are a result of drowning and if someone was wearing a proper sized flotation device, it would cut down a lot on the drownings that we have,” he said.

Chase Cavanaugh

It's national EMS Week. President Gerald Ford designated the week 45 years ago to celebrate the importance of paramedics, ambulance staff, and other pre-hospital emergency workers.

Hospitals around the nation are holding events honoring the work of EMS staff. This includes Dr. Matt Smetana, an Associate EMS Director at MercyHealth in Rockford.  He says the profession has evolved.

Chris Duffy

Billionaire entrepreneur, "Shark Tank" panelist, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban discussed some political issues Thursday in Illinois that he might tackle if he went into national politics

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois State Police are pushing to add more troopers to their ranks.  Master Sergeant Hector Alejandre says they’re trying to assemble a large class at the Trooper Academy.

“We’re always going to be looking for folks. Our current numbers now are at 1,718 sworn. That is a significant loss," he said.

Even with new recruits applying for the position, not all make it through the vetting process. That’s why Trooper Aldo Schumann says ISP wants to sign up as many candidates as possible.

Rockford is working to set up a one-stop shop for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.

In 2016, Rockford was ranked second highest in the state for human trafficking, and domestic violence currently makes up about 30% of the city's violent crime.

Chase Cavanaugh

One of the last airworthy B-17 bombers stopped in Rockford Friday and Saturday for public tours.

The plane, christened Aluminum Overcast, was built in 1945, and later donated to the Experimental Aircraft Association. One of the visitors was 96-year-old tailgunner Ray Moore of Aurora.  Members of his bomber group, the 398th, helped keep this plane airworthy over the years. 

"Our bomb group paid to have this plane painted and we also put the number 3 engine on it," he said.

Existing rules around the Illinois medical cannabis program could make the rollout for recreational use a less daunting task. But there are plenty of unanswered questions at the federal level which could complicate the process.