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.

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

The Illinois Department of Public Health is cautioning residents against the overuse of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are effective at fighting bacterial diseases. But the most common conditions for which people visit a doctor are cold and flu, which are viruses.  IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold says the effectiveness of antibiotics on other diseases creates a sort of expectation in patients.

"Snow Plow" by Flickr User June Marie / (CC x 2.0)

Snow removal crews are active across Illinois in the wake of Monday's winter storm.

The main types of vehicles you'll probably see are snowplows and salt trucks. IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell says drivers should give these vehicles a wide berth, especially snowplows.

"They're higher up, their sight lines are not as good," he said. "You might see the plow but they might not see you. So we're just asking folks if they are out on the roads, and they do get in traffic with one of our plows, that they give them plenty of extra distance, more so than you would any other car."

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website


The Illinois Attorney General's office just released its 11th annual Safe Shopping Guide on its website. It details the many toys and kid's products that have been recalled due to safety issues.


Spokeswoman Eileen Boyce says common problems include choking hazards and lead paint, but other issues also crop up. 


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Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is cracking down on illegal parking in handicap spaces for Black Friday. 

Secretary White’s office is cracking down at major shopping malls in areas such as Rockford, Aurora, Carbondale, and Springfield. White says parking in these spaces without a disability placard will net at least a $350 fine. 

"And of course, I think it is a violation of all laws of human decency for you to be able-bodied, but yet you are parking in a space that has been set aside for someone who has been truly disabled," he said.


The Illinois Department of Transportation says it’s stepping up traffic enforcement over the holiday break.  Spokeswoman Jessie Decker says this will take the form of various roadside safety checks.

“About 200 local law enforcement agencies are receiving additional funding for that over the Nov. 16-26 range-- so from Thanksgiving on,” she said.

She also says there are several measures people can take to ensure they have safer journeys on the state’s roadways. 

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Gas prices are on the decline nationally and in Illinois. That's because of less demand and a greater petroleum supply.

Prices are often dictated by demand, and AAA reports there is significantly less at the moment because it’s past the summer driving season. Spokeswoman Beth Mosher explains.

“Well, we’re out of that summer driving season and so naturally there’s less driving that is happening, even as we head into one of the busiest travel days of the year, which is Thanksgiving,” she said.

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When you take out your trash, you typically divide it into household waste and recyclables. But oftentimes, there's a third category: yard waste.

Yard waste can vary greatly, from lawn clippings to portions of trees. But the most common waste people gather up this time of year is piles of leaves. Municipalities have different schedules for picking up leaves. Andy Raih is DeKalb Interim Street Superintendent. He says they collect from the end of October through the end of November.

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Illinois public health officials are hoping vaccination campaigns help stop the spread of several prominent diseases. 

By immunizing as many people as possible, health care providers want to prevent disease from taking hold in Illinois. Dr. Nirav Shah is Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. He says right now there's an emerging threat from outside the state.

"A number of states across the country, including some of Illinois' neighboring states, have been experiencing very large outbreaks of Hepatitis A," he said.

Claire Buchanan

Illinois residents are registering to vote and casting their ballots early in record numbers.

The Illinois State Board of Elections reports more than 8 million people have registered to vote, which is higher than the amount in the 2016 Presidential election.  Spokesman Matt Dietrich says there’s also been a rise in early voting.

“Right now we’ve got close to 750,000 early votes cast," he said.  "If that keeps up, we’ll definitely surpass the number that we saw in 2014, which was 791,000. But it’s also possible that we could have more early votes cast than we saw in 2016.”

Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

Early voting is in full swing as time winds down before the midterm election. It's been available to Rockford residents since Sep. 27th and voters have turned up in droves.

The city’s Board of Elections has counted more than 5,000 votes to date. But Executive Director Stacey Bixby says it’s difficult to compare numbers with the previous midterm election because early voting worked differently in 2014.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University’s STEMfest is working to be more inclusive this year.

The annual event takes place at NIU's Convocation Center. It features scientific demonstrations, intricate displays, and STEM experts scattered across the large space.  But it’s often a loud, crowded show.  NIU STEM educator Sam Watt says they’re trying to expand access to the event with a low-sensory hour.

Mayo Clinic News Network

The Drug Enforcement Administration is holding a National Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, Oct. 27.

It's working with local law enforcement, medical centers, and others to provide places to drop off expired and unwanted drugs with no questions asked.  Douglas O’Brien is Director of Region 5 of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He says disposing of these drugs is important in fighting addiction.

“About 80% of people who are abusing heroin report that, at one point, they began by misusing prescription opioid medication,” he said.

Chase Cavanaugh

Every fall, northern Illinois farmers set up roadside shops to get their crops to market, as well as get visitors to check out their farms. You can find several of these along a stretch of Lincoln Highway east of DeKalb.

One of the largest is Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park. It has a pumpkin farm and apple orchard, plus a lot of family attractions. These range from train rides and corn mazes to climbing walls and a "bouncing pillow." Co-owner Kimberly Kuipers says these were inspired by taking their own kids to nearby farms.


Illinois gas prices are higher than this time last year.

Statewide prices are at an average of $2.82 per gallon. This is down from last month, but about 30 cents more expensive than October 2017.  AAA spokesperson Beth Mosher says there are a number of economic factors involved.

“This fall, Illinois saw a number of issues from local refineries, which pushed prices higher. Also, supply and demand have been affecting prices quite a bit this fall,” she said.

Northern Illinois University

Tornado frequency has increased over a large swath of the Midwest and decreased in the region known as "Tornado Alley."

The study led by Northern Illinois University professor Victor Gensini shows parts of Texas and Oklahoma remain the most frequent sites for tornadoes. But the numbers have gone down over the past four decades, while there have been more tornadoes in a region running from Illinois and Indiana to Alabama and Mississippi.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

The 70th House District covers parts of DeKalb, Kane, and Winnebago counties. Since 2003, it's been represented in the General Assembly by Republican Bob Pritchard. Earlier this year, Pritchard resigned from his position to join Northern Illinois University's Board of Trustees.

After participating in the primary, party offiicals picked State Farm insurance agent Jeff Keicher to fill out the term.

Northwestern Medicine operates the two major hospitals in DeKalb County, but the majority of its resources for stroke care are based at Central DuPage Hospital.  That’s why Kishwaukee and Valley West Hospitals are making use of a telestroke system so doctors can videoconference with area patients.   Stroke coordinator Caryn Josh says it’s one of the first steps in patient care.

“They get that initial CT. They get back to the emergency department room and then we initiate the telestroke robot," she said. "We’re kind of involved from the very beginning with the treatment.”

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

When you think of passenger air travel in northern Illinois, O'Hare often comes to mind. But Rockford's facility, officially known as Chicago Rockford International Airport, is making a greater name for itself, particularly in the realm of cargo.

In 1994, officials with United Parcel Service, better known as UPS, made a deal with airport authorities to set up a sorting hub. Since then, it's become the company's second largest air operation in the world.

Chase Cavanaugh

Northern Illinois University will be the fourth research hub for the Illinois Innovation Network.

This hub will be part of a research network that spans three University of Illinois campuses, each focused on different subjects.  Gov Bruce Rauner says the state’s already budgeted $15 million for NIU’s center, and NIU President Lisa Freeman says the center will focus on issues of sustainability.  

"Environmental sustainability, water and food policy, water and food shortages," she said. 

Gov. Rauner said this could lead to significant innovation.

Ildar Sagdejev/Wikimedia Commons

Learning how to drive is still a rite of passage for many teenagers, but the requirements to get a license vary by state.

Getting behind the wheel is perhaps the most memorable part of learning to drive, but it also involves a lot of classroom instruction. David Druker is with the Illinois Secretary of State's office. He says that's where the majority of students still get their training. 

"So the majority, 75 percent -- I think it's a couple hundred thousand people in any given school year -- are actually going to the high school driver's ed programs," he said. 

Susan Stephens

Community colleges are a major source of transfer students in northern Illinois. Students earn an associate's degree and continue their education at NIU for their bachelor's. 

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

Northern Illinois University's Board of Trustees voted without dissent to appoint Dr. Lisa Freeman as the institution's 13th President Thursday.

She's been the Acting President since last year, and her contract for the new position will run through August 2022. Board Chairman Wheeler Coleman says Freeman will be paid a base salary of $450,000, but it also includes provisions from a new state law that caps severance pay at twenty weeks.

Victoria Lunacek

For some people, their first thought of a nuclear power plant involves cooling towers, meltdowns, and the comically incompetent Homer Simpson. But needless to say, The Simpsons is not an accurate representation of a nuclear power plant. Like coal, oil, and gas plants, nuclear power stations use heat to generate electricity. But they're subject to many more safety precautions because their fuel -- uranium -- is radioactive. 

Victoria Lunacek/WNIJ

Nuclear energy has a significant presence in Illinois, with 11 reactors spread across six plants. Together, they provide about 11.8 gigawatts of power to the entire state. That's enough for millions of homes -- or, as any "Back to the Future" fan knows, almost ten DeLorean time machines.

Chase Cavanaugh

As of Thursday, Northern Illinois University is one step closer to having a permanent president.

Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved Dr. Lisa Freeman as their candidate for university president. She's been serving in an "acting" capacity since the resignation of Doug Baker in 2017. Trustees praised Dr. Freeman for her past year of leadership in a time of declining enrollment and budgetary realignment.  Former state representative and current board trustee Bob Pritchard says her leadership will be invaluable.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University again experienced an overall drop in student enrollment this year.

The biggest loss was in total undergraduates, down 666 students from last year (from 13,454 to 12,788). NIU also saw an eight percent decline in the number of transfer students, from 1,716 to 1,577. Total enrollment now hovers at 17,169 students, which is a drop of 4.8 percent from this time last year.

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Elections in Illinois are often handled on a regional basis by the County Clerk. Larger communities like Aurora and Rockford have independent boards, but some of these groups are consolidating into their county governments.

Our story begins in DeKalb County, which recently purchased a set of used voting machines from neighboring Kane County. Clerk and Recorder Doug Johnson says Kane no longer needed them, and it was a way to update the voting infrastructure without waiting for the state to approve new machines.

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ News

Two northern Illinois members of Congress are gearing up for the November elections.  

16th District Republican Adam Kinzinger and 17th District Democrat Cheri Bustos are fighting to keep their seats this fall.  Kinzinger is facing off against Rockford lawyer Sara Dady, and says there is energy on both sides.  


"I feel very strongly about holding the Senate, maybe gaining some seats, and I think the House is certainly in play."

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ News

There's federal money on the way to help combat domestic violence in northern Illinois. Members of Congress announced a nearly $450,000 grant for Rockford to establish a Family Justice Center. The facility will serve as a hub for survivors of domestic abuse and their children to get help from law enforcement, social services, and other agencies.  Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says he’s grateful for the federal help.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University’s acting president outlined her vision for the campus in a public address Thursday.

Speaking before faculty, staff, and students, Dr. Lisa Freeman said NIU has been successful in employing a diversity of perspectives across campus. However, she said NIU needs to evolve in order to face future challenges. Chief among those, she said, was the need to guarantee fiscal stability in the wake of an absent state budget and declining enrollment.