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.

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.

Spencer Tritt

More than 100 volunteers played victims in a mock airplane crash at Chicago Rockford International Airport Friday. 

The airport staged a drill where an Allegiant jet had an "accident" when there was a landing gear malfunction. That left volunteers either sitting or lying flat on a runway next to the aircraft.  Firefighters and medics from the Airport, Rockford, Byron, Freeport, and other nearby communities then took them away for triage and treatment. All the while, fire trucks flanked the site, in position as if there was a real fire.

Mark Cuban Companies

Judson University is going to the "Shark Tank" as it rolls out a new speaker series.

Since 2011, Judson University in Elgin, Illinois, has held the World Leaders Forum. Guest speakers have included Queen Noor of Jordan, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. An early forum organizer was 2004 Judson alumnus Mark Vargas.

Chase Cavanaugh

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin visited SwedishAmerican hospital in Rockford Tuesday to highlight the importance of reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

He discussed three bills that take aim at this problem. The first is known as the Remedy Act, and Durbin says it would limit the abuse of patents to prevent generic drugs from threatening a drug company’s monopoly.

Chase Cavanaugh

Unemployment can happen to anyone, and state government and colleges have resources to help those who are looking to increase skills while they are between jobs. 

The state's latest jobs numbers indicate that unemployment was at 4.7% in February. However, this rate was higher in many of the state's metro areas. The highest was Kankakee, at 6.7%, followed by Rockford at 6.4. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Governor J.B. Pritzker surveyed flood damage in Machesney Park and Freeport Wednesday. The nearby Rock and Pecatonica Rivers reached record levels. The latter crested at its highest level since 1933.

Pritzker praised local officials for their evacuation and damage control efforts and said he would provide additional support from the state.

“I’ll be here today, but I’ll be back whenever this community needs more help, and of course, our emergency management officials are going to be on the ground, helping every single day," he said.

Northern Illinois University will administer the state’s Migrant Education Program from January 2019 to September 2021. 

MEP is a federally funded program of the Illinois State Board of Education. It focuses on providing schooling to the children of migrant workers. NIU Director of Illinois Migrant Education Services Susana Das Neves says most of the programs are geared for migrants during the summer.

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed the For The People Act Friday. The bill would require political organizations to disclose large donations, and make changes to Congressional ethics rules. Illinois Representative Cheri Bustos introduced the legislation, and says it was spurred by citizens’ political frustration.


Illinois is still looking for a new state climatologist.

The role is the main point person for all climate information around the state. An example would be comparing snowfall and rain to previous years and seeing how far they deviate from the norm.

"Teachers Pet" by Flickr User Matthew / (CC X 2.0)

A bill expanding MAP grants to prospective teachers is making its way through the Illinois General Assembly.

Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / "Money" (CC v. 2.0)

The Mayors of DeKalb and Rockford responded to the statewide minimum wage hike that was signed into law last week. The measure will raise the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. 

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith worries about the effect this may have on small businesses. Smith says he would have preferred that the increase be done more incrementally. 

"I would have liked to have seen something that was written into law that mandated perhaps a one or two year step, and then let's take a look at it," he said. "You know, economies change."

Northern Illinois University

When people hear the word "meteorology," the first thing that often comes to mind is TV weathermen.

A key aspect of meteorology is studying atmospheric patterns to accurately predict the weather. But NIU professor Victor Gensini says there is much more to the field.

"After you get a meteorology degree, you're a broadly trained critical thinker," he said. "You have skills in physics, in mathematics, in computer science, in programming."

After a harsh winter, potholes are an increasing problem along Illinois roadways.  Collisions can cause damage to cars such as flat tires or misalignment. Even steering around them can lead to erratic driving. AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher says a recent survey shows there’s a consensus on the impact of these road hazards. 

“The majority of Illinois drivers don’t think that our roads and bridges are well-funded but they don’t want to pay for the additional funding that’s likely needed to maintain and build better roads,” she said.

Chase Cavanaugh

The Illinois State Police is setting up shop at internship fairs in a search for new officers. This includes an event next week at Northern Illinois University.

ISP has more than 2,000 sworn officers spread across 21 districts. Officers say there isn't a single factor pushing them to recruit new troopers. But they admit that attrition and the two-year budget impasse had an effect on their ranks. Sgt. Hector Alejandre says much of their work takes place on major state roads.

Andrew Heiserman

Northern Illinois University is slowly reopening after a week of extremely low temperatures. 

NIU closed its main campus several times this week. Classes were also cancelled Thursday due to breakdowns on the Huskie Bus Line.  Campus spokesman Joseph King says the closings were broadcast well in advance so students and faculty wouldn't be caught off guard.

Temperatures dropped dramatically Tuesday night and dangerously cold conditions will continue through Wednesday. Northern Illinois utility giant ComEd has a weather command center up and running. It's meant to be able to take a larger volume of calls, especially from residents without power. 

"Dentist" by Flickr User Travis Wise / (CC X 2.0)

For some people, going to the dentist can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, regular dental treatment keeps teeth healthy. But at the same time, the sights, sounds and smells of a dental office can be unsettling for some. 

But which dentists you can access, and even afford, often depends on where you live.  

Members of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists national union will hold  a small protest at Chicago Rockford International Airport Saturday. Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Representative Pete Rosa says the government shutdown furloughed many aviation safety inspectors. He says air travel is unnecessarily at risk.

Chase Cavanaugh

Police can be called to school for emergencies, but they also have a regular presence in the form of resource officers.

Last May, a former student opened fire at Dixon High School’s gym during graduation practice.  Resource Officer Mark Dallas pursued the shooter after he heard the gunfire, and stopped him with a non-fatal shot to the shoulder.  Dallas’s story made national news, and he was hailed as a hero for preventing a massacre. 

A federal judge suggests the protracted government shutdown will hurt the federal workforce in the long term. 

Ruben Castillo is Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. His court has dwindling funds to pay employees and is set to run out January 25th.  He says the poor treatment of government employees, especially the lack of pay, will make young people think twice about seeking out work in the federal government.

Federal courts are feeling the effects of the government shutdown.  This includes the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  It's based in Rockford and Chicago and hears both civil and criminal cases.

Chief District Judge Ruben Castillo says if the court runs out of money to make payroll, it will prioritize criminal cases for people detained and awaiting trial.

“We need to get those cases to trial as soon as we can," he said. "Somebody shouldn’t spend not even one extra day in jail unnecessarily."

Courtesy of the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry

Northern Illinois food banks are holding steady, despite the arrival of winter and a continuing government shutdown.

The Sauk Valley Food Bank in Sterling distributes food to pantries in Whiteside and Lee Counties, and outlying areas like Freeport. Executive Director Andrea Hensgen says their work hasn’t been affected much by the shutdown, but there has been a slight change in clientele.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

Amazon is a leader in online shopping. It has warehouses across the country to sort and deliver its products. Recently, Amazon Air announced it will expand its delivery network into Rockford. 

Chicago Rockford International Airport is already a major hub for UPS. The airport also has maintenance facilities capable of repairing the world's largest aircraft. But Amazon took particular interest due to the airport's cargo operations. Director Sarah Rhoads says it's part of the retailer's "Middle Mile" network for two-day deliveries.

Proposed plans for legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois shifted from "when" to "how."

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is on board. So are state Sen. Heather Stains and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy. Their plan would allow Illinois residents to purchase and possess 30 grams of cannabis for recreational use. Non-residents would be allowed to have half this amount.

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The light rail system used to move passengers around O'Hare International Airport is shutting down until next fall. 

The Chicago Tribune reports the "Automated Transportation Service" previously operated only on weekends since the spring. Starting today, service will be fully suspended and passengers will need to use shuttle buses to get between terminals and the outlying parking lots.

A new Illinois law changes the type of car seat that young children must be secured in.

The law takes effect Jan. 1st, and requires drivers to secure children younger than two in a rear-facing car seat. This rule is waived if the child is more than 40 inches tall or heavier than 40 pounds. 

University of Wisconsin

Spruce trees are a common choice for Christmas decorations, but a regional fungal disease can strip away their needles.

Rhizosphaera Needle Cast is a fungus that can infect several varieties of spruce trees, with one of the most vulnerable types being the Colorado Blue Spruce.  Taylor Hennelly is a Forestry Supervisor for Rockford. He says the city’s tree is infected with Rhizosphaera which can be tracked by the gradual browning of needles.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University will put its student health services under Northwestern Medicine's management next year.

The change has been in discussion since earlier this year. NIU was in the midst of program prioritization, a process that evaluated individual departments and suggested ways they could operate more efficiently. NIU Executive Vice President of Student Affairs, Michael Stang, says student health was no exception.

Susan Stephens

It’s been two years since Illinois lawmakers approved the Future Energy Jobs Act.

The law set renewable energy targets for the state.  Dave Kolata is executive director of the Citizens Utility Board.  He says new energy efficiency standards will also bring down the overall cost of electricity. 

“By 2030, ComEd must now expand and enhance energy efficiency programs to cut electricity waste by a record 21.5% and for Ameren, it’s 16%," he said.

Library of Congress

It’s been 100 years since the Spanish Flu pandemic.

In 1918, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people, and killed at least 50 million, or about three percent of the world’s population at the time.  Patrick Perry is Executive Editor of the Saturday Evening Post, which wrote a retrospective of the pandemic. He says it spurred many changes in public health, such as socialized health care, and a better understanding of how diseases are spread.