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 newest board chairman has released a 60 day review looking at financial and policy concerns facing county government.  It's part of Frank Haney's campaign pledge to implement the "ACT Initiative" to bolster accountability, collaboration, and transparency. 

According to the document, the review "is a starting point in which to build on and not intended to be a complete or final analysis."

The DeKalb Dist. 428 school board will consider a resolution Tuesday night to approve a settlement agreement and release with Superintendent Doug Moeller.

Moeller has been on paid leave since a district principal requested an emergency stalking order in September. 

We continue WNIJ’s Friday Forum, in which we interview politicians and others whose decisions affect you. This morning, we check in with two new county board chairmen in northern Illinois. We’ll hear how the two men will attempt to transform their campaign platforms into action plans.

Scott Desavouret

People watching the inauguration from home got a close-up view of the speeches. For those near the National Mall, it provided a different perspective. Correspondent Scott Desavouret of Malta, Ill. is in Washington D.C. and says protest chants were greeted this morning with counter chants of "USA."

It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday honoring the birth and life of the civil rights leader

Amirius Clinton is the president of the NAACP chapter at NIU. He says the day is not just a day off work or out of school, but an opportunity to remember King's character.

The local chapter experienced a rebirth on campus last semester. Clinton says the group spent that time helping students register to vote.

Jenna Dooley

It’s Tommy Whetsel Day in Ogle County. He may not be a familiar name, but he’s sure been a familiar face in the community.

His wake-up call today was a siren.

At 6:40 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 30th, Tom Whetsel was escorted to Byron's County Market in a fire truck. The flashy pick-up meant it wasn't just any other day on the job. It was in celebration of a career spanning three generations of co-workers.

Whetsel arrived on time, as has been his custom, and even took his daily 9:00 a.m. break in the back of the store.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation / greatlakesbasin.net

A Wisconsin lawmaker has written to the federal government expressing opposition to the Great Lakes Basin Railroad.

The idea behind the $8 billion plan is to bypass freight congestion in the Chicago-area. The path would run from northwest Indiana, across northern Illinois, and into southern Wisconsin. Supporters say it will give an economic boost to the region, but some landowners near the proposed route aren’t sold.

Susan Stephens

AMC's Hell on Wheels is a fictionalized version of the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the Wild West in the 1860s.

The show draws much of its drama from a greedy tycoon who encourages workers to weave and wind tracks every which way to maximize profit—with little regard for the land.

Upon seeing a blueprint, self-proclaimed "villain" Thomas Durant laments, "Why have you made my road so straight?"

That is not so easy to get away with these days. 

National Weather Service

Remember last year? Northern Illinois University meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste does.

“We had temperatures in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. We had thunderstorms with hail. That was in large part to the El Nino that was going on. Now we get the reverse and now we pay for it.”

The arctic blast is being felt across the Midwest.

NIU Today

A pair of high-ranking Vice Presidents at Northern Illinois University are leaving the school next year.

Jenna Dooley

Tamir Hargana shared his gift of music with the residents of Oak Crest Retirement Center Tuesday afternoon in DeKalb.

Hargana says the public concert was in appreciation for financial support from the Lester K. Smith scholarship fund to continue his studies in DeKalb.

The Northern Illinois University graduate student previously attended Inner Mongolia University Arts College, specializing in Mongolian throat singing and the horse head fiddle.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University has been at the center of several court cases this year.  

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by an NIU biology professor claimed he was denied salary increases in-line with similarly situated non-Indian faculty members.

Court documents alleged the university "willfully and deliberately" subjected the professor to discrimination on the basis of his race since he was hired in 1983.

Ahil Nishanthan Gunasekaran, Sidharth Pandey, Darshan Patil

Voter turnout dipped nationally this election cycle, but it appears there were slight gains in some northern Illinois counties.

WNIJ took a closer look at turnout in DeKalb, LaSalle, and Winnebago counties compared with 2012. 

Joiner History Room

Marlyn Burkart, the founder of Marlyn’s Majorettes died this week. She spent decades teaching young people baton twirling and color guard.

In 2009, she served as Grand Marshal of Sycamore’s annual Pumpkin Fest. At that time, the Pumpkin Fest committee lauded Burkart for her years of service to the community, noting her group’s participation at regional sporting events such as the Bulls, White Sox, and Cubs games, and marching in Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Burkart also held local competitions for youth.

staterepwallace.com

Illinois House Democrats lost their supermajority this election. That change means they lose the ability to override a veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, says the outcome of Tuesday’s election may not hit the party as hard as some observers may expect.

A leading addiction treatment advocate says service providers have a role in the next presidential term.

Marvin Ventrell is the Executive Director of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. He served as keynote at the annual Rosecrance Forum on Thursday. Rosecrance offers addiction services for teens and adults at more than 40 locations in Chicago and Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Jenna Dooley

Rockford University will formally install its newest president this week.

Eric Fulcomer was introduced as the university’s 18th president in February. At that time, he said one of his priorities was recruitment. Prior to his selection, Fulcomer was the school's Vice President of Enrollment Management.

Enrollment of full-time undergraduate students at Rockford University reached a record high this fall with 924 students.

The new president also has some municipal government experience: He is a former mayor of Bluffton, Ohio.

Jenna Dooley

In higher education, "safe spaces" are places where people can feel open to express themselves. Northern Illinois University's Center for the Study of Women, Gender & Sexuality describes such an environment as a place "without fear of being violated, harassed or judged, no matter their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, economic class, citizenship status, or disability."

Jenna Dooley

Betty Hampa of Genoa was a freshman at Northern Illinois University in 1959. She says her friends invited her to volunteer as an usher at the Egyptian Theater for a visit by the then-Senator of Massachusetts.

“I just remember that he said things that would excite young people," Hampa recalls. "He seemed like he talked about going to the moon… a lot of exciting things. Because he was young, he was handsome. He just had this charisma about him or something that just really grabbed you."

photo provided

With just weeks to go, much attention is given to the 2016 presidential election in the United States. But a look back in time reveals some topics were very similar on the road to the White House in 1960.

On Oct. 25, 1959, then-Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy visited a luncheon rally of Democratic committeemen in DeKalb County. Later, he made remarks before more than a thousand people at the Egyptian Theater in downtown DeKalb.

A Kane County judge dismissed on Thursday morning a stalking/no contact order filed against DeKalb District 428 Superintendent Doug Moeller.

An emergency stalking ordered filed by DeKalb High School principal Michele Albano on Sept. 19 will expire on its own terms.

According to court records, Albano failed to appear in court Thursday morning. Superintendent Moeller, along with his lawyers and several witnesses did appear in court before the dismissal.

NIU

Arrests and referrals related to drugs and alcohol fell last year at Northern Illinois University. That’s according to the Annual Safety and Security Report released Friday.

Universities are required to publish the report as part of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

FDA

Attorney General Lisa Madigan and 35 other attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of brand-name Suboxone. It's a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction by easing addiction cravings.

The suit claims the companies tried to block generic competitors, leading to artificially high prices.

Public universities continue to struggle with budgeting due to uncertainty in Springfield, Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker told a town hall meeting Thursday. He says the stopgap and partial-year budget measures aren’t enough. His suggestion to lawmakers?

"Why don’t we take the 2017 budget—that half-year budget -- and count it towards ’16 and you give us a full-year budget?," Baker asked. "That’s our story. The odds of that are probably not very high right now.”

CDC

State officials are looking into more than a dozen cases of respiratory illness at a LaSalle Veterans' Home.

Eleven residents tested positive with pneumonia over the past several months. One of the residents also tested positive for Legionnaires' disease. A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans' Affairs says the 97-year-old resident had multiple underlying issues and has since died.

Two other people in LaSalle County tested positive for Legionnaires' disease.

Jessie Schlacks

The University of Chicago received national attention last month after an administrator issued a letter to freshmen telling them that the university will not condone the creation of so-called “safe spaces” where students can retreat from ideas and perspectives “at odds with their own.”

It's a hot-button issue for schools across the nation. 

For their part, Northern Illinois University leaders are looking beyond the confines of the campus to create an environment for people of all backgrounds, beliefs and experiences.

Joiner History Room

  

An Illinois prison inmate says prosecutors broke their promises after he testified in the trial involving the death of Maria Ridulph.

The Sycamore girl was kidnapped in 1957, and her body was found several months later. Jack McCullough was arrested for the death decades later, and his trial was held in DeKalb County in 2012. Earlier this year, a judge vacated McCullough's conviction and freed him from prison.

Susan Stephens

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois claims Rangaswamy Meganathan, who is of Indian national origin, was denied salary increases in-line with similarly situated non-Indian faculty members. 

Court documents allege NIU "willfully and deliberately" subjected Meganathan to discrimination on the basis of his race and national origin since he was hired in 1983.

The lawsuit outlines the starting salaries and off-cycle salary adjustments for many non-Indian faculty members within the Department of Biological Sciences.

Jenna Dooley

Families touched by overdose deaths are encouraged to remember this time of year as a time to break down stigma. Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. In Rockford, families who have lost loved ones to addiction recently gathered to remember them in a symbolic way.

One by one, they dropped single stems of bright red roses into the Rock River.

Nick

Nick Shoudy was 20 years old when he died of an overdose involving Fentanyl. That was six years ago.

done in collaboration with summer 2016 data visualization course, Department of Computer Science, Northern Illinois University (Mohammed Jaffer Ali)

Video gaming machines have been popping up in Illinois bars and restaurants for nearly four years. For the most part, the increase in gaming machines and in revenue across the state has been steady.

Database: Check revenue reports in your community

There are nearly 24,000 video gaming machines in Illinois, and the amount played over the last few years is in the billions of dollars -- with a b. 

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