Dan Klefstad

Morning Edition Host & statewide newscaster

Good morning, Early Riser! Since 1997 I've been waking WNIJ listeners with the latest news, weather, and program information with the goal of seamlessly weaving this content into NPR's Morning Edition.

Since January, 2018, I've been delivering Illinois-focused newscasts for NPR listeners on WNIJ and partner stations WUIS, WCBU and WSIU.

As WNIJ's content manager, I'm responsible for what you hear on the air, and what you see on our website and social media platforms.

Questions/concerns/suggestions? Email me at dklefstad@niu.edu. Tweet @danklefstad. Or call 815-753-9000.

Last but not least: Thank you very much if you're a financial supporter of this station. If not, I welcome your new membership here.

Best,
DK

Ways to Connect

Mike Doyle wasn't in Belvidere on April 21, 1967. The Rockford native was a freshman at UW-Whitewater when an F4 tornado ripped through Boone County.

But Doyle's been living with that twister for years.

His book, The Belvidere Tornado, was first published in 2008. It tells the stories of people who survived the storm, and the 24 who didn't.

When Doyle finished the manuscript, he got up from his desk and walked into the living room.

Every Mother's Day, millions of Americans take Mom to brunch. Kids try to repay a year of home-cooked meals with breakfast in bed. And those remembering a departed mom place flowers at the cemetery or raise a glass to her portrait.

This year, WNIJ listeners can write a poem and maybe read it on the air. We launched our first-ever Mother's Day Poetry Contest this morning.

Ingrid Christie

Would you read your diary aloud in public? David Sedaris has been doing it for years as part of his live shows.

The award-winning essayist and humorist will perform at Rockford's Coronado Theater on April 24. During this show, he'll share some of the entries from his forthcoming book, Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002).

But don't expect juicy details about his past, private life or dreams. "Nobody cares about anyone's dreams," he says.

When Christine Sneed begins a story, she never knows where her characters will take it.

"Usually I'm about halfway through and I still won't know what's going to happen at the end," Sneed says, "but I have some sense of where I'm going."

The award-winning author has the experience to avoid early-draft pitfalls, and shares this knowledge with her students at Northwestern University and Regis University.

The next four years will be very good for poetry.

That's according to Susan Azar Porterfield, who says our nation's current political divisions echo previous tempests, which sprouted an abundance of biting verse.

In 2003, Robert Bly, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and more than 8,000 other poets submitted their work to a global movement opposing the Iraq invasion. The book Poets Against the War collected 262 of those poems.

"You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl."

We've all heard this, which is why it's refreshing to find a story that shows the opposite.

Rachel Raines is the protagonist of Small Town Roads by L.B. Johnson, one of our Read With Me selections for this month.

In a story about an alcoholic teen and the twin brother who covers for her, who's the protagonist?

"I have people come up to me and, in some cases, they say alcohol is the protagonist," author Kathleen Tresemer says. But, in an interview with WNIJ, she hints that the twins' co-dependent relationship may be the real main character of her novel, Time in a Bottle.

The book is one of four Read With Me selections for February.

A graphic novel featuring U.S. Rep. John Lewis became the first non-fiction work to receive The Michael L. Printz award.

The award recognizes the best young adult book of the year, plus up to four "Honor Books" or honorable mentions.

March: Book Three is the final piece of a trilogy that tells the history of the civil rights movement as experienced by Rep. Lewis. It was co-written with Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell.

Pick up WNIJ's book bag and turn it over. What falls out?

Two novels, one book of poems, and a story collection -- all by northern Illinois writers.

Each will share her insights into the craft of storytelling during interviews that air during Morning Edition on 89.5 FM and WNIJ.org.

WNIJ invites you to read the following selections before the series airs Feb. 20 - 23.

Like many people, poet Allison Joseph watched last Saturday's press conference with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer shared statistics that questioned the news media’s reporting on the size of the president’s inaugural audience.

Spicer's numbers were easily debunked.

Then, on Sunday, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet the Press to assert that Spicer’s falsehoods were simply “alternative facts.”

Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) keeps his job as Speaker after just one House Republican voted against him this week.

 

But Ryan’s victory turned sour after he and the Majority Leader defended an attempt to weaken the independent ethics office.

Gabe Bullard/WAMU

This January, WNIJ will introduce a new program called 1A, hosted by Joshua Johnson. This live, call-in talk show will air weekdays after Morning Edition.

Johnson says the program will take "an unflinching look at America," addressing race, gender, class and other issues that divide people.

But he says it will provide a safe place to do so. For Johnson, frank discussion of difficult topics requires a forum where all views are respected.

Tom Vilsack knows the life-altering effects of addiction. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary watched his mother battle drugs and alcohol and nearly die.

"She got introduced into this as a result of a surgery she had when I was a young boy," Vilsack says, "and that turned her on to pain medications."

Vilsack's mom spent the next five years in and out of hospitals, attempting suicide, quitting and using again.

Northern Illinois University

Some important events happened this week.

The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record highs. And President-elect Donald Trump continued to announce his cabinet picks.

But a federal court ruling could have even more far-reaching effects.

A three-judge panel ruled Wisconsin's 2011 redistricting law unconstitutional -- a move that could affect the redistricting process in every state where lawmakers draw political maps.

In a 2-1 ruling, the panel said Wisconsin's districts, drawn by Republicans, unfairly affected Democratic voters.

Dan Libman

Today, "Bar Beat" reporter Dan Libman wraps up our 2016 election coverage from pubs and taverns in the WNIJ area. Drinkers have been speaking their minds all summer and fall, and now they're looking forward to a halt in political ads, and the return of that carefree buzz you only get for a few months after each election.

Before the next campaign starts up again.

If Democrats want to retake the U.S. Senate, they'll need Illinois to do it, according to Matt Streb, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University.

The margin is five seats, or four if Hillary Clinton becomes president; that would allow her vice president to cast tie-breaking votes. Right now, polls show Illinois and Wisconsin leaning Democratic with seven other states too close to call.

Earlier this month, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan held a conference call in which he told Republican members that he would no longer defend Donald Trump. The call came three days after Trump appeared in a 2005 video using lewd and insulting language about women.

The Speaker, concerned about losing the House, freed members to disavow Trump or embrace him -- whatever it took to get re-elected.

The challenger in the 17th Illinois Congressional District is sticking with Donald Trump, in spite of a 2005 video riddled with Trump's offensive comments about women. Republican Patrick Harlan doubled down the Monday after the video went viral, saying Hillary Clinton would be worse for the country.

From the candidates' websites.

Greetings from Illinois' 16th Congressional District, where voters will find one U.S. House candidate on the ballot: incumbent Republican Adam Kinzinger.

This results directly from 2010 redistricting, when state Democrats -- who controlled the map making process -- packed Republicans into a half-moon around Chicago's suburbs, stretching from Wisconsin to Indiana. This made neighboring districts less Republican, but it created a nearly impossible environment for Democratic challengers in the 16th.

Johnson: congress.com/Feingold: madison.com

Two weeks ago, control of the U.S. Senate could be determined by a flip of the coin. Today, Democrats have a 70% to 75% chance of retaking the upper chamber.

That's according to Matt Streb, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University. Streb spoke to WNIJ about the Wisconsin and Illinois Senate races, plus eight U.S. House races in the WNIJ area. We'll feature those interviews each morning this week.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is standing by Donald Trump, even as polls show the Wisconsin Republican trailing Democratic challenger Russ Feingold.

Northern Illinois University political scientist Matt Streb is watching this race closely. He says Sen. Johnson is limited to two difficult choices with Trump on the ballot.

Carl Nelson

Of the 110 submissions for the WNIJ Flash Fiction contest, "Losers Weepers" impressed our judge the most. Author Marie Smysor Watson sent her story in response to a prompt issued by Molly McNett, who selected the winners. The prompt required the opening sentence to describe an outrageous, inexplicable situation.

Watson is from Kewanee. She's seeking a publisher for a short-story collection and is writing her first novel.

Carl Nelson

Today's WNIJ Flash Fiction winner was written by an accomplished Chicago writer. Ashley Keyser's work appeared in literary journals such as Pleiades, The Cincinnati Review and Passages North. Her poetry also was included in the Best New Poets 2015 anthology.

Carl Nelson

What would you do if you awoke to find a suitcase filled with cash in your living room?

This premise is Andrew Kopecky's response to the WNIJ Flash Fiction prompt, which required an opening sentence describing an outrageous, inexplicable situation.

Carl Nelson

WNIJ called for submissions, and scores of writers responded from all over northern Illinois.

Our Flash Fiction contest, announced Aug. 29, sought very short stories (about five hundred words) in keeping with a prompt issued by our judge, Molly McNett.

Our Flash Fiction judge, Molly McNett, selected four winning stories -- a first-place winner, a second-place winner, and two stories that tied for third. The authors got to read their stories to WNIJ listeners during Morning Edition.

Of the 110 submissions, McNett felt six more stories deserved honorable mentions. These authors got to read their stories in our studios and have them video recorded.

Dan Klefstad

Labor Day is traditionally when political campaigns go into high gear. According to conventional wisdom, that's when voters start paying more attention to the candidates.

But this election cycle is anything but conventional. The major party presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, are well-known to voters but for the wrong reasons; both have high negative ratings.

What's more, the rhetoric from both campaigns is increasingly ugly, which has observers wondering if this will lower voter turnout in the fall.

Carl Nelson

Today you awoke with a crippling headache and writer's block because the stingray you insulted dragged its poisonous tail from your neighbor's pool to your open window and squirted its nauseating, creativity-numbing toxin into your whiskey glass.

That opening sentence is, of course, fictional; but it is in keeping with the prompt for a very real writing competition, which we're calling our Flash Fiction Contest. We have more information about our prompt below. First, however, we need to define Flash Fiction, also called Micro Fiction or Sudden Fiction.

Dan Libman

This presidential election is the weirdest in living memory. Conservatives nationwide are scratching their heads over how Donald Trump became their nominee, while progressives are still unsure about sending their frenemy, Hillary Clinton, to the White House.

    

Many political experts say House Speaker Paul Ryan will beat his Republican challenger during Wisconsin's August 9 partisan primary. Matt Streb isn't so sure.

Streb, a political science professor at Northern Illinois University, notes that Sarah Palin endorsed Ryan's challenger, Paul Nehlin, because Ryan was slow to endorse Donald Trump, the GOP's presidential nominee. But Streb isn't thinking about Palin.

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