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.


An Illinois legislator says the state’s new gambling expansion bill needs to be cleaned up.

The state’s recent gambling expansion authorized the construction of six new casinos and legalized practices like sports gambling. Illinois State Representative Jeff Keicher says the law is vague over how legalized sports betting will work, such as how people can bet on specific sports. He hopes the General Assembly can clear that up.

The American Lung Association is urging Illinois residents to get the flu vaccine.

Pulmonologist Meilan Han says vaccinations are important both to avoid getting the disease and to protect others.

“Influenza actually does cause respiratory inflammation, but in someone for instance with a chronic health condition, that inflammation can lead to pneumonia," she said. "People can get secondary bacterial infections, and this can ultimately lead to respiratory failure and death.”


October is Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month.

It’s an annual campaign to inform parents how to protect their babies from suffocation. Deborah Lopez is a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She says parents should follow the “ABCs” of sleeping.

“The baby should be sleeping alone, always placed on their back, and should be sleeping in the crib with a firm mattress covered with a tightly fitted sheet, and that’s all,” she said. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Judges gathered at the federal courthouse in Rockford to celebrate the 35th anniversary of a full-time district judge for the region.

The local division of the U.S. District Court moved from Freeport to Rockford in the 1970s. But its district judge, Stanley Roszkowski, could only travel there once a month to hear cases while maintaining a full presence in Chicago. Roszkowski’s son John said that soon changed.

Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Health departments representing nine counties in the northern Illinois/Rockford region released a joint statement regarding vaping.

The statement comes in the wake of injuries sustained by users of electronic cigarettes and vaping products. Spokeswoman Katherine O’Toole with the Winnebago County Health Department says the increasing prevalence of these symptoms prompts caution.

Connie Kuntz

389 species of birds in the U.S. could be threatened if global temperatures rise.

That number comes from the National Audubon Society’s most recent report on climate change. It says a changing climate could greatly reduce the range of these birds, and some might not survive the habitat loss. Jennifer Kuroda is the president of Sinnissippi Audubon. She’s trying to raise awareness at a local level through a series of bird murals in Rockford.

Western Illinois University

Bobcat season is approaching in Illinois. There is disagreement over how expanded hunting will impact the species long term.

Illinois resumed bobcat hunting just a few years ago. Rachel Torbert is a spokeswoman with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. She says IDNR asks hunters to report animals they encounter.

"Surveys that we’re working with have been conducted since the early 1990s and they show a steady increase in bobcat population in Illinois," she said.

Northern Illinois University

A Northern Illinois University administrator will chair the Illinois Innovation Network Council.

The Network is a collection of 15 hubs based at state universities. Each hub is a center of research, entrepreneurship, education, and workforce development; and the Council is a way to better coordinate their projects.  NIU's inaugural chairman is Vice President for Research and Innovation Partnerships Dr. Gerald Blazey. Blazey says all the hubs have a central connection to the Discovery Partners Institute in downtown Chicago.

Hard Rock International/City of Rockford

Last week, the Rockford City Council voted 11-to-1 (with one abstention) in favor of certifying Hard Rock’s plan to the Illinois Gaming Board. Hard Rock edged out two alternative casino proposals. 

The Gaming Board has up to a year from when it receives the proposal to decide whether to grant a casino license to Hard Rock. If they do, Mayor Tom McNamara says Hard Rock will first open a temporary casino site at Giovanni’s Restaurant and Convention Center.

"I would say you have about 90 to 180 days and you will have that temporary facility up and running," he said.


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing three Illinois counties with an $11.3 million grant to remove lead paint from homes. Midwest Regional  Administrator Joseph Galvan says lead removal is essential, especially in the case of children.

“Those children who are affected by lead will not have the same advantage of using their God-given gifts to the best of their ability,” he said.

Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he thinks the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump should go forward. He said he joined his colleagues several weeks ago to say it was necessary.  

“I didn’t jump at this as a possibility," Durbin said.  "I waited until the evidence started to mount, and I believe, based on the documents released by the president, declassified by the president, and the whistleblower’s complaint, I believe the impeachment inquiry should go under way."

Chase Cavanaugh

Two senior U.S. Senators toured a federal prison in northwestern Illinois Tuesday.

The Administrative United States Penitentiary is based in Thomson, Illinois. Budget shortfalls meant the facility was sold to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012.  Since then, staff and inmate numbers have gone up, but new employees are having difficulty finding nearby housing. Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois explains.

Chase Cavanaugh

The Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District is responsible for cleaning local sewage in DeKalb and at Northern Illinois University.  A more than $45 million project aims to modernize the plant.

Chase Cavanaugh

When we hear about purifying water in the news, it’s often about what comes out of the tap. But how do we clean it once it’s been used?

Whether it’s from a toilet, sink or bathtub, dirty water eventually makes its way into the local sewer lines.  And those lines, provided they’re in working order, make their way to a water treatment plant.  In the City of DeKalb, that responsibility falls on the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District.

State officials are looking for help to address crowding at Starved Rock State Park.

More than two million people visit the popular park each year. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Starved Rock Lodge turned to Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies to study the problem.

The park nearly doubled in size thanks to a land purchase last year, but NIU researcher Mim Evans says managing the crowds is a complex issue.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission is holding its fourth annual "College Changes Everything" month.

The campaign consists of workshops around the state covering college admissions and applying for financial aid. Lynne Baker is the communications director for the agency. She says the campaign is catching on.

“We have over 300 high schools and 215 towns and cities in Illinois that have scheduled either a college application and/or a FAFSA completion workshop this fall. More are being scheduled every week,” she said.

Martin Falbisoner CC by SA 3.0

Questions of precedent come forth as the U.S. House of Representatives conducts an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

One concern among supporters of impeachment is that the U.S. Senate could halt further action if the House votes in favor of impeachment. Aurora University Assistant Professor Matthew Dabros says chamber rules require the Senate to take action, but members could vote to dismiss the charges.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University wants to make the list of companies that it contracts with more inclusive. This year, its Diversity Vendor Networking Fair will focus on small businesses, as well as firms owned by women, minorities, people with disabilities, and veterans.

Judson University is hosting Caroline Kennedy as the keynote speaker for its World Leaders Forum this year.

Kennedy is the only surviving child of President John F. Kennedy, and was appointed as the first female U.S. Ambassador to Japan in 2013.  University President Gene Crume says Kennedy previously crossed paths with her interviewer at LaGuardia Airport.

Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford residents had the chance Monday to hear about the three plans for a new casino. 

Crowds packed the Coronado Performing Arts Center for the city's public hearing. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara was optimistic as he kicked off the night's events.

"All three organizations believe in the City of Rockford," he said. "All three want to invest their dollars in the City of Rockford, and all three see potential in a community that continues its comeback." 

Chase Cavanaugh

Veterans organization "Vietnam2Now" will hold its annual Day of Remembrance ceremony in northern Illinois. It's for prisoners of war who didn’t make it home. Member Michael Belinson says there are still people unaccounted for.

“The program itself, we have a list of 66 Illinois Vietnam veterans, since we are a Vietnam organization, Vietnam veterans who are still POWs and MIAs," he said.

Spencer Tritt

Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb was the site of a full-scale hazmat drill Thursday.

Local firefighters and paramedics worked with hospital staff on how to treat victims of a chemical accident. This includes suiting up in protective gear, de-contaminating patients, and transporting them to the hospital.  DeKalb firefighter Patrick Eriksen says emergency workers need to be prepared for everything.

Chase Cavanaugh

It’s the end of summer in northern Illinois, and the Carey family is preparing for the new school year. But the student they’re helping is a guest to their house.

“My name is Ezgi and I’m coming from Turkey. I’m an exchange student here. Here I’m living in Illinois, Geneva, and I’m going to Geneva Community High School.”

U of I Institute of Government and Public Affairs

The University of Illinois released the latest Flash Index numbers. 

At 105.1, it’s the lowest level this year. It was at 105.4 in July. Economist Fred Giertz  says any measure over 100 indicates an expanding state economy.

“So it’s a slight decline, which means the economy is still growing, but not as rapidly as it was a few months ago," he said.


Friday afternoon was the deadline for casino operators for submit their proposals to the City of Rockford. It received three different proposals. 

One proposal is by Hard Rock International. The company wants to build the casino at the site of the former Clock Tower Resort near I-90.  The second is by Gorman and Company, a firm that wants to build next to an Embassy Suites downtown.  The Register Star confirms both companies delivered their proposals Friday afternoon. 

City of Rockford

Friday is the City of Rockford’s deadline for accepting proposals to build a casino.

The casino license is one of six approved by the state’s gambling expansion. Hard Rock International and Gorman and Company have both expressed interest, but Mayor Tom McNamara says it ultimately comes down to what is submitted.

“They’re due at the city at 2 o’clock," he said. "We’re eagerly anticipating casino applications to be delivered.”


The Illinois Gaming Board is seeking input on sports betting in the state, which was legalized this year.

It wants to use the comments to shape future regulations. Both the gambling industry and members of the public are encouraged to express their concerns. Former Winnebago County Board Member John Ekberg is part of the latter group. He suggested this course of action at a meeting of concerned citizens in Rockford last month. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a law Monday that expands insurance coverage of mammograms.

Previously, insurance companies only had to cover the initial “screening” mammograms that check for cancerous tissue. Under the new law, insurance must now cover any follow-up mammograms that scrutinize the body in more detail.  Pritzker says this extra coverage is essential.

Rockford Park District

Hard Rock International has pledged several philanthropic initiatives to the Rockford Park District if the company secures a casino license in the city. 

The district has been searching for alternative sources of funds due to declining property tax revenue. Hard Rock approached them several weeks ago about public investment. Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine proposed several music-related projects. These include an outdoor amphitheater and a music production studio at a community center. 

Chase Cavanaugh / WNIJ

Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza just released nearly $15 million in back funds for Chicago Rockford International Airport.

The money was supposed to go toward the construction of the Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul facility. Airport Executive Director Mike Dunn says the project began four years ago, but the state’s contribution never came. 

“Governor Quinn’s administration made the commitment," Dunn said. "He left office. Governor Rauner came in and Rauner ended up giving us nothing.”