Jenna Dooley

News Director

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield.  She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.

14th Congressional District candidate Jim Oberweis has filed a Notice of Contest with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican challenged incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood on the November ballot. After the results came in declaring Underwood had won, Oberweis requested a discovery recount.

In a news release issued Monday, Oberweis says he does not believe there was rampant fraud, but he believes there were instances when election laws were not followed which affected the outcome of the election.


Rock Valley College is asking for the community's help with campus cleanup efforts. Monday's storm has been classified as an EF1 tornado. Campus officials said it touched down on the RVC main campus behind the Woodward Technology Center and by the creek, causing significant damage and spreading debris throughout the college grounds.

The College is looking for volunteers from the community who would be willing to come out on Friday, Aug. 14, from noon to 4 p.m., or Saturday, Aug. 15, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

Instructions for volunteers:

Carl Nelson

Former Daily Chronicle Editor Barry Schrader has died.

The newspaper reports Schrader died Tuesday at the age of 79 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

A longtime journalist who worked around the country, Schrader served as editor of the Daily Chronicle from 1969-1972. He and his wife also owned several smaller papers in the area.

city of Aurora Facebook

We conclude our “Hot Seat” series with the mayor of an Illinois city among the hardest hit economically by the pandemic.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin learned the hard way about the threat of COVID-19.

“As a person who contracted it early on in March, and went through terrible symptoms, and the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen, and hearing the news, and seeing that people were dying from this and being hospitalized for weeks on end -- I just want to let people know that this is real,” Irvin said.

Brooke Road United Methodist Facebook page

State and local leaders are making decisions every day about the COVID-19 pandemic that are met with praise and criticism.  In this segment of "The Hot Seat," we hear from a pair of faith leaders about the decisions ahead.

IDPH: Places of Worship Guidance

Dixon’s imprisoned former comptroller is requesting an early release due to the threat of coronavirus.

Rita Crundwell is currently serving a nearly 20-year sentence at a federal prison in Pekin, Illinois.

She was sentenced in 2013 for stealing $53 million dollars from the City of Dixon over more than two decades.


Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is responding to a lawsuit filed against him by a Stephenson County church.

The lawsuit was filed by Pastor Stephen Cassell and the Beloved Church of Lena.

The filing says Pritzker’s statements and actions during the coronavirus epidemic demonstrate an “illegal and discriminatory hostility to religious practices, churches, and people of faith.”

Pritzker addressed the lawsuit during his daily press briefing in Chicago.

Jenna Dooley

In Illinois, the pandemic means remote learning for college students. At retirement communities, it’s been weeks of strict social distancing. One Illinois woman is living in both worlds. Joyce DeFauw lives at the Liberty Village assisted living facility in Geneseo, Illinois near the Quad Cities. At 87, she’s also the oldest online student at Northern Illinois University.

Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos says there continues to be a disconnect between Washington D.C. and Illinois on the availability of COVID-19 test kits.

The Democrat says she was recently on a call with Vice President Mike Pence and national health experts Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

Bustos says they indicated they were doing “great” on getting test kits out.

The Illinois Auditor General's office released the most recent compliance report for several Illinois public universities, including Northern Illinois University. In the NIU report, auditors noted that in their test sample, two employees were paid beyond their termination date.

The report includes the university's reponse to the finding.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin says his COVID-19 symptoms made him feel like he went “to the edge” and back.

The mayor held a Facebook live update Wednesday afternoon.

He was joined by Police Chief Kristen Ziman and Police Commander Keith Cross who also tested positive.

Ziman says they don’t know exactly how they got infected but she says early prevention planning meetings involved large gatherings of officers, including in-person meetings with the mayor.

A DeKalb County resident in their 50s has died from complications of COVID-19. The DeKalb County Health Department previously announced that this resident had tested positive for COVID-19. According to a news release, the identity of the resident is not being released to protect the privacy of the family.


Winnebago County’s health administrator says residents can do better.

Sandra Martell held a news conference Thursday to provide an update on prevention efforts in the county.

She was joined by Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. Martell shared the results of a “social distancing” scoreboard.

"I’m disappointed," Martell said. "Winnebago County only has a B-. When you think about that, and I’m going to borrow a phrase from the mayor, ‘B’s get degrees,' but here, 'B’s may get disease.'”

Note: This case is not yet reflected in the IDPH numbers.

The Winnebago County Health Department is reporting a death related to COVID-19. County Health Director Sandra Martell says the identity of the man is not being released, but he was in his 60s.  

“We would like to share a statement from the family: 'He was a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend,'” Martell said. “And I would like to add 'a member of our community.'”

Maybe you have heard the term "infodemic" in response to the onslaught of coverage on-air and on social media related to the spread of the coronavirus disease. Perhaps you are already feeling news fatigue on this topic. Here at WNIJ, we believe accurate and timely information can save lives in uncertain times. That's why we are committed to bringing you a wide range of perspectives to help you understand the scope and scale of this pandemic.

NIU Center for Governmental Studies

In Illinois, birth rates are down and more people are leaving the state. These demographic trends are putting pressure on Illinois policy makers to revitalize local economies.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University recently announced it will no longer require the ACT and SAT for admission and scholarships.

Arturo Chuatz is an accounting major from Elgin. He says the announcement doesn’t matter much to him since he is close to graduating. But he says it could help his family. He says his little sister sometimes struggles on standardized tests.

“She gets super anxious and she’s always like, ‘I don’t do well on exams.’ It’s going to help her out if she chooses to transfer to a four-year university eventually,” Chuatz said.

Jenna Dooley

U.S. Senators voted to acquit President Trump on two articles of impeachment. In DeKalb, protesters gathered to voice their concern with the trial itself. 

The intersection known as “Peace Corner” is busy, but not usually this noisy. Protesters scheduled the gathering well before the Senate votes -- knowing the likely outcome of an acquittal.

But David Barrow says the public rally shows that many Americans are not satisfied with how the trial unfolded. Specifically, some calling out the decision not to call witnesses.  

There are many opinions on how to broadcast a presidential impeachment trial. To be sure, the stakes are high when the highest office in the land is given this level of scrutiny.

How should it sound on your radio?

There are often factors that are out of our control. For example, sometimes the coverage is scheduled with a start time of 11:00 a.m. Sometimes, it’s been noon. Sometimes, the proceedings are scheduled for the weekend. They can last a few hours or go deep into the night. That means your favorite program may be preempted during times we’re in “special coverage.”

Sarah Jesmer

DeKalb’s Mayor says he sees several areas of growth in the city’s future. Jerry Smith delivered the annual address Monday night.

Smith pointed to several new businesses along Sycamore Road. They include a new Aldi grocery store and Planet Fitness gym to fill vacant buildings.

“Some business is growing, and a few go out of business too," Smith noted. "It’s the nature of the beast, my friends. To expect every business to succeed forever is simply unrealistic.” 

Lee Schreiner collection

A longtime collector of rare sheet music has died. Lee Schreiner donated much of his collection to Northern Illinois University where it found new life.

Read Lee Schreiner's full obituary

Abs Anderson

Officials at Northern Illinois University are hoping a new landmark in the heart of campus will get students to stop in their tracks and get out their phones.

The cardinal red sculpture with the letters N-I-U measures 6 feet high by 19 feet wide.

It sits in the center of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commons in DeKalb.

The sculpture was unveiled as NIU completes work on an overhaul of the southern portion of the MLK commons.

The sculpture is part of a gift from Dennis and Stacey Barsema. Dennis Barsema is the board chair for the NIU Board of Trustees.

Jenna Dooley

Longtime political observers are concerned about a lack of transparency and infighting among Winnebago County leaders.

This week, Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and a group of voters sued county board members in federal court. They argue the board systematically stripped Haney of executive powers since he took office in 2016. It's the latest in a string of complaints lodged within county leadership.

"We've completely distracted, distorted and perverted the way we do business. You know, nobody really feels good," said Haney.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney and dozens of voters filed suit against 13 county board members on Monday. The federal court filing argues Haney’s efforts to implement reform after winning the election have been thwarted by board members stripping Haney of his executive powers. Haney was elected in Nov. 2016.

The lawsuit is the latest in continued infighting among county leadership.

Peter Medlin

Lynn Fazekas is speaking out after Mayor Jerry Smith asked her to step aside from her role as Clerk of the City of DeKalb.

According to an email sent to media outlets including WNIJ, Fazekas said she was asked to resign on Monday night. Fazekas said she refused.

"The action followed a Council closed session that excluded me," Fazekas said. "The mayor did say resignation would save me from public embarrassment, but he gave no details so I also haven't a clue what he is trying to save me from."

Jenna Dooley

Artists are busy brightening surfaces around Rockford for the city's first CRE8IV mural festival. On this week's Friday Forum, we hear from one of the artists and learn about the festival's connection with bird lovers.

Artists are scattered around Rockford's downtown, putting their touches in alleyways on the sides of brick buildings. Well, make that nearly all of the artists.

Jenna Dooley

The DeKalb County History Center opens this weekend. It's also the unveiling of a traveling Smithsonian exhibit. 

The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit, "Crossroads: Change in Rural America," will be on display May 11-June 22, 2019.

Michelle Donahoe is the Executive Director of the Center. She says it's an opportunity to connect DeKalb County's roots in rural America.

Jenna Dooley

Rockford’s Chancery and Piety Hill properties have made the list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.

The annual list is produced by the group Landmarks Illinois.

The group says the cluster of buildings are excellent examples of Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival architecture from the 1920s.

Susan Stephens

A program to allow veterans to receive care outside of the VA got mixed reviews over the past few years. Critics say “Veterans Choice” was rushed and poorly communicated. Supporters of the latest “Mission Act” say it addresses some of those shortcomings. We learn more in this week’s Friday Forum:

The U.S. Senate confirmed U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie in July of 2018. He came into office with a few goals in mind.