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.


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.

Northern Illinois University's student-run film festival hits the big screen this week.

Krystal Termini is a spokesperson for the Reality Bytes Independent Student Film Festival. She says her class chose 17 films out of dozens of entries.

“Each week [during class] we watched about 10 films,” Termini explained. “And then each 10 films that we watched, we broke those down into ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘maybe.’”

Jenna Dooley

The Northern Illinois University community celebrated the investiture of President Lisa Freeman on Friday.

As university dignitaries mingled in their traditional caps and gowns with a backdrop of live music from the Avalon String Quartet,  it was clear this was a special occasion. Lisa Freeman was appointed president of NIU in September 2018. The investiture offered the opportunity to formally acknowledge her role as the university’s first female president. In her inaugural address, Freeman outlined the strengths she sees in her university.

Sarah Jesmer

Mourners packed a northern Illinois high school Wednesday afternoon to remember an Illinois trooper killed in the line of duty.

Trooper Brooke Jones-Story was fatally struck during a roadside inspection in Stephenson County on Thursday.

A celebration of life was held at Warren High School.

In audio provided by WIFR-TV, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker offered condolences on behalf of the state.

"I promise that I will carry the burden of action that our collective grief conveys every day of my administration," Pritzker said.

It's been one week since special counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report on the investigation into Russian influence during the 2016 election. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with Matthew Dabros, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Aurora University.

Dabros says the tension had been building for several weeks with word that the special counsel was nearing the end of the investigation.

Victoria Lunacek

Fiat Chrysler announced recently that it will cut third shift operations at its Belvidere production facility in May. The plant produces the Jeep Cherokee. The company cited global demand as part of the reason. On this week's Friday Forum, we learn how the decision could have a much larger ripple effect on the economy.

The shift change will affect 1,371 jobs.

Jenna Dooley

In a previous Friday Forum, we spoke with former Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey about his opposition to the Catholic Diocese of Rockford's plan to demolish its former chancery, which is the traditional name for a diocese's administrative offices. It was built in 1929 and has been vacant for nearly a decade. Morrissey joined a group calling for historic designation for the chancery and a pair of surrounding buildings near Court Street.

Victoria Lunacek

The Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies conducted research on the direct and indirect losses for the northern Illinois economy as a result of the announced third shift cutback. You can hear that interview Friday, March 8 and 6:50 and 8:50 on WNIJ's Friday Forum.

Coloring books for adults are growing in popularity. Curators at Northern Illinois University's Founder's Memorial Library hope the hobby can bring attention to one of their more unique collections. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with the curators about the "ColorOurCollections" event.


Chapters of the Human Library are popping up around the world as a way to challenge stereotypes and encourage active listening. The Northern Illinois Chapter will host an event Saturday at Rockford Public Library's East Branch. On this week's Friday Forum, we learn more about what makes this library unique.

Jenna Dooley

In the Catholic church, a chancery is the traditional name for the administrative offices of a diocese. In Rockford, church leaders have made plans to demolish the former chancery on Court Street. It was built in 1929 and has been vacant for nearly a decade. Since then, there have been building code violations and continued costs for upkeep. Church leaders cite safety concerns as well. Former Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey wants historic designation for the building to pursue ways to give it new life.

On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with Noel Storm and Casey Clabby who helped make the film for others to understand life after the diagnosis.

Noel Storm had a bilateral mastectomy in 2007 and it changed her life forever.

"Once I had my surgery, I realized that my purpose was to help other women through the process of the surgery because I realized there was so much emotional baggage that went with it," Storm said.


John Perryman is a pediatrician with Mercyhealth in Roscoe. He sees patients struggling to afford medications. Some families, he says, disappear for stretches of time when they fall off an insurance plan. On this week's Friday Forum, Jenna Dooley talks with Perryman about his view as well as from a major opponent of the idea.