Jenna Dooley

Reporter, News Production Supervisor

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.

Austin Hansen, Ross Beach

DeKalb County officials tallied up the economic impact of the state football championships, and they are happy with the results.

DeKalb hosted the games over Thanksgiving weekend at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium. The championship match-ups featured 16 teams from around the state, including Batavia, Pleasant Plains, and Rochester.

Estimates show there were nearly 500 booked hotel rooms in DeKalb and Sycamore, an increase from the last time the city hosted the event two years ago. There were another 140 hotel rooms booked in Rochelle.

Susan Stephens

The ground may be frozen in parts of Illinois, but it’s not too early to start thinking about this year's garden.

National Seed Swap Day is held the last Saturday of January.

These gatherings are a way for new and veteran green thumbs to expand their collections by sharing a variety of open-pollinated seeds. Pam Stock, with the Boone County Conservation District, is also an avid seed saver.

Rockford voters will get a chance this spring to decide whether or not to return the city to “home rule” status. In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley explores the potential implications on the city and its residents.

What is "home rule" anyway, and why does it matter in 2018?

Bobbie Holzwarth is a co-chair for the effort to bring back home rule to Rockford. She gives this example:

Pixabay

A group of Illinois lawmakers will exploring the potential benefits to the state in using “blockchain” technology developed for cybercurrency. 

The value of the digital currency Bitcoin has been volatile during its existence so far, but its blockchain backbone could have other uses for the state. Blockchains are encrypted ledgers of transactions that can be shared.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, will chair a new cryptocurrency subcommittee.

CDC

A sharp increase in flu activity continues to be seen across the United States and in Illinois.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds more than 20 states are now reporting widespread influenza activity.

That includes Illinois, where increases in the number of cases of the flu have been tracked in most regions of the state.

Midway Village Museum - Digital Collections

Rockford’s Midway Village Museum is making it easier for people to access historic images from the city’s past.

The Museum often is asked for photos to help history buffs for family trees, business research, and school projects. Previously, you would have needed an appointment. Now, more than a thousand of the Museum’s most popular images are available online.

Jenna Dooley

Rockford citizens took time Thursday to remember the lives of homeless adults who died in 2017.

More than 40 homeless adults died in the area in 2017—an increase from previous years. They ranged in age from 26 to 67. The event was hosted by the Rock River Homeless Coalition.

Todd Kisner is chair of the group. He says a handful of social service providers worked in some capacity with the people who died. They communicate with each other throughout the year to track the deaths.

The Northern Illinois University student newspaper will begin receiving student fees in order to save the student-operated Northern Star. According to an editorial published this week, the newspaper received student fees prior to 1996 but opted out due to its financial position at that time.

The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees could take another vote next week regarding Doug Baker's Presidential Transition Agreement.

A judge ruled last month that the university violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved Baker’s deal this summer soon after he announced his resignation.

DeKalb resident Misty Haji-Sheikh filed the lawsuit and could be entitled to having her legal fees covered. That decision will be made early next year.

The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Batman: The Dark Knight, are known for including scenes from some of Chicago's most iconic landmarks, but it's the small screen where the state may reap the largest benefits in the future.

The Illinois Film Office coordinates films, commercials, and television productions in the state.

Illinois Film Office Director Christine Dudley expects the rise of streaming services to increase overall productions in the state.

Jenna Dooley

The statistics are sobering. Opioid overdoses have killed nearly 11,000 people in Illinois since 2008. Last year alone, that number was nearly 2,000 -- twice the number of fatal car crashes. State officials estimate that number will continue to explode.

There are many players trying to address addiction head-on. That includes emergency responders, police officers, treatment centers, and family members themselves.

Jenna Dooley

Rockford’s mayor is supporting an effort to return the city to home rule status.

Here’s an example: Since Rockford is not a home rule city, leaders can charge up to $50 in license fees for  video gaming in the city, and there are a lot. Home rule communities can charge into the thousands of dollars. That’s why some critics argue home rule can unfairly target business owners who may absorb extra taxes and fees.

Jenna Dooley

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has been taking a victory lap for the new school funding formula at schools across the state. Such visits can be a low-stakes way for the state’s top politicians to interact with their youngest constituents.

Last month, Rauner took questions from several inquisitive students at Galapagos Charter School in Rockford.

Rauner: So do you have any questions for me?

Student: How much do you get paid?

Most Freedom of Information Act requests come from people outside of the journalism field.

"We get requests every single day from regular citizens who are interested just in knowing what the government is up to," according to Annum Haider, civic engagement coordinator with the Better Government Association. "They are trying to get more information to be more engaged."

Jessi LaRue

When it comes to innovation, we remember the name that came out on top – no matter how good the “other” product was.

Cyrus McCormick gained fame for his wheat reaper, but few people remember John Manny.

When it comes to barbed wire, the name of Joseph Glidden springs to mind, along with his partner Isaac Ellwood. But not as many people are aware of the significance of Jacob Haish in the industry.

Jenna Dooley

A Northern Illinois University student created a website that maps out Illinois health care providers for immigrants, regardless of their status. Yosue Perez, an accounting major from Hanover Park, completed the project through the school's Summer Research Opportunities Program.

He says he has a personal interest in the topic.

Carl Nelson

She's not sure how long she'll be in the office, but NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman says there's plenty to accomplish. Among her priorities are providing employee raises and zeroing in on the latest student recruiting tactics.

To-do list for temporary role

Austin Hansen

For the first time in the school's history, first-year medical students will live and learn in Rockford.

The first class to arrive on campus in 1972 came to the city as second-year students, completing their initial training at the University of Illinois College of Medicine campus in Urbana.

Alex Stagnaro-Green is the regional dean for the college. He says students will now be able to complete all four years of medical school in Rockford.

Jenna Dooley

A group of volunteers is trying to clean up one of Illinois’s busiest tourist spots.

Six-year-old Leo Mancuso of Oswego enjoys Starved Rock State Park the same ways many visitors do -- jumping across small streams and gazing up at monstrous rocks. But there’s another side to the popular tourist spot: trash.

“I found a water bottle, a big one,” he explained.

It’s no surprise to his mother, Becky Mancuso, who brought along a large trash bag for this hike.

Jenna Dooley

Dozens of residents recently toured the Islamic Center of DeKalb. It was part of an effort to answer questions directly about the world's second-largest religion.

This was the first visit for some within DeKalb’s Beloved Community. The group is open to people of different beliefs and backgrounds. They meet monthly at different locations to discuss a variety of topics facing residents of the DeKalb area.

Michelle Goodenough heard about the tour in her home church’s Sunday bulletin.

Jenna Dooley

On today’s Friday Forum, we talk with two northern Illinois superintendents about their goals for the coming year. We’ll also hear how they feel about the uncertainty in school funding from the state of Illinois.

Freeport Superintendent Mike Schiffman's goal for the new year is to better align his district's schools, both in philosophy and curriculum. He's hoping to accomplish this through increased contact with students and parents.

NIU Lee Schreiner collection

Lee Schreiner of Rockford doesn’t play the piano or sing. He’s a physics teacher with multiple degrees from Northern Illinois University. But his hobby of collecting wartime sheet music has grown over the years.

“I thought maybe I could collect like a hundred sheets," he admits. "Then it was a thousand. Then it was five thousand. It’s amazing and almost unexplored territory because people had not done a lot of research on World War I. I'm trying to understand the history through the music.”

In 2016, WNIJ News reported on drug overdoses in Winnebago County. Jenna Dooley provides an update on one of the families that was featured in that series.

Last year, Josh Shuga overdosed on heroin. It took several doses of an opioid-reversal drug to save him.

This month, Josh celebrates one year in recovery.

It took several life-changing steps to achieve that milestone.

During a recent telephone conversation with her son, Connie Holmes says a lot has changed in both of their lives.

Jenna Dooley

Northern Illinois University and Rock Valley College are working to expand an engineering degree program designed to keep talent from leaving the state.

This fall will be the third semester for the mechanical engineering partnership between NIU and RVC. It means students can complete a degree without setting foot on NIU’s main campus in DeKalb. Classes are taught at RVC’s Woodward Technology Center by faculty from both schools.

Chase Cavanaugh

The Democrat-backed Senate Bill 1 could increase state funding for all Illinois public schools over the next decade. It’s based on a complex formula to determine each district’s current gap to reach ideal adequacy targets for learning.

A recent murder in Sycamore is bringing attention on domestic violence within the community.

37-year-old Lidia Juarez of DeKalb was found dead in her car outside the Illinois Department of Human Services, where she worked. Her estranged husband -- and a suspect in her death -- was killed in a shootout with police Friday afternoon.

DeKalb County records show Antonio Juarez violated an order of protection earlier this year.

Illinois Department of Public Health

It’s tick season in northern Illinois.

So far this year, there have been no confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Winnebago County. There were eight cases in 2016 and another seven in 2015. No deaths were associated with those confirmed cases.

Todd Marshall, director of environmental health in Winnebago County, says there have been reports of increased tick activity in northern Illinois

Parks Foundation

The Illinois Fallen Soldier Tree Memorial at Illini State Park in Marseilles honors soldiers from around the state who have died in war since 2001. The current site includes hundreds of oak trees and a large flag pole.

Organizer Steve Massey says a new fundraising campaign would pay for a sloped concrete mounting to hold memorial bricks with the names, hometown, and branch of service for each fallen soldier.

Susan Stephens

Earlier this year, NPR analyzed the length of wait times for veterans to get appointments and treatment at Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Over the next few days, you will hear a Midwestern perspective on a federal program trying to improve veterans care.

Northern Star

Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker recently announced a financial update as the campus continues to struggle with the effects of the statewide budget impasse. The student-run Northern Star newspaper recently reported on an area of the university's finances that doesn't get as much attention.

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