Susan Stephens

Reporter, All Things Considered Host

Susan’s parents should have known she’d end up in radio: her favorite toys were tape recorders, cameras, notepads, and books. Many years later, she’s an award-winning reporter at her favorite radio station. Formerly WNIJ’s News Director, she asked to return to the role of full-time reporter/anchor/utility player in 2010 (less paperwork, more reporting!). Her #1 goal is to tell the most compelling stories in the fewest words possible…all the better if a little humor can be thrown into the mix.  It should come as no surprise, then, that she can whip up a haiku for any occasion. She also enjoys the Detroit Tigers, learning pioneer skills (Gardening, canning, and the like. Just in case.), traveling with friends, and pretending she’s going to get around to playing her theremin.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

It has been ten years since a six-year-old Aurora boy disappeared with his mother -- her body was found three days later in a Rockford motel with a suicide note saying he would be “well taken care of.”

May 11 was the tenth anniversary of Timmothy Pitzen's disappearance. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) marked the date by releasing a new age progression image showing what he might look like today – at age 16.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Rockford voters overwhelmingly decided to continue to fund their road improvements with a one-percent sales tax.

79% of voters said yes to the city’s road tax referendum in Tuesday’s primary election. Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara thanked voters for investing in their infrastructure. The sales tax has been in place since 2007, when voters decided to move from funding their road improvements with a city sticker.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A new sculpture along the banks of the Rock River is a celebration of the centennial of women gaining the right to vote – and of the women who are carrying that right forward.


Football returns to Northern Illinois University this fall. Officials with the Mid-American Conference announced games will start Nov. 4. The MAC was the first major college football league to postpone its season because of COVID-19 and the last to jump back in.

The six-game season will conclude in a championship game Dec. 18 or 19. Pre-season practices can start Oct. 5.

public domain

Mourners have been gathering at the U.S. Supreme Court since the death Friday of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, leaving flowers, candles, and messages to honor the women's rights icon.

Impromptu vigils are popping up across the nation as people grapple with the loss of a liberal hero and what this means politically.

John Ivanic

A Northern Illinois University football great and former Rockford TV anchor has died. John Ivanic died Monday in Columbus, Ohio. He was 52.

Sarah Jesmer / WNIJ

A Springfield man accused of killing a Special Deputy US Marshal last year in Rockford is now facing more charges.

Floyd Brown was originally charged with one count of killing a federal law enforcement officer and two counts of illegal firearm possession, in connection with the death of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner. Keltner was a member of the US Marshals Service fugitive task force and was attempting to serve Brown a warrant at a Rockford hotel when he was fatally shot.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

There were demonstrations across the nation Saturday, including Rockford and DeKalb, protesting the death of George Floyd and other police killings of African-Americans. 


A woman who is thought to be the last of the original Rockford Peaches has died. Mary Pratt pitched in the inaugural season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943. That team was immortalized in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own.”

University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford

Coronavirus testing will continue at a drive-thru testing site in Rockford this morning, after the state health department and the Governor’s office intervened in a problem with receiving test results.

Winnebago County Board chairman Frank Haney asked for help from the state, saying 2,100 tests taken at the site at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford were “missing.” Haney said test results were not available after nearly two weeks when they should have taken only a few days. He announced Wednesday evening that testing would be suspended at that site.

Northern Illinois University president Lisa Freeman says the COVID-19 shutdown has cost the school $40 to $50 million so far in "revenue reductions and real costs." Future financial losses will be significant, too, in state funding, enrollment, housing, canceled events, and even philanthropy.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A Rockford Peach turned 90 Friday -- and her family and fans are throwing her a drive-thru surprise party, in keeping with stay-at-home guidelines, of course.

Illinois Dept. of Public Health

Illinois has now surpassed 10,000 cases of COVID-19. Saturday, Boone County reported its first two cases.

Bob Myers

Someday, the COVID-19 pandemic will be history. And that’s why one DeKalb County photographer is urging people to document it now.

Bob Myers took his wife’s advice. She’s DeKalb County historian Sue Breese, and she encouraged him to photograph the empty store shelves, the empty parking lots, and the altered daily interactions that are now part of life under the State’s stay-at-home order. In turn, Myers turned to social media to ask other DeKalb County residents to join the effort. For him, it’s important to keep the project local because it “makes it hit home more.”

Kartemquin Films

An important figure in the world of documentary film has been hospitalized in Chicago with COVID-19. Kartemquin Films co-founder Gordon Quinn was admitted to Northwestern Hospital Wednesday night after having difficulty breathing.

Francie Barnes and friend

On our inaugural Under Rocks podcast: We celebrate the weirdness of winter in northern Illinois. Dan Libman and Susan Stephens hit the slopes (the sled slopes), pedal icy backroads, traipse through freshly-fallen snow with a trail groomer, and find out just what that brand new mountain in the middle of a DeKalb park is made of.

Grab your mittens and hop on!

Highlights of this episode: It's a wintry mix!

Your favorite local sledding spots.

We visit two of your favorite sled hills in DeKalb County: Russell Woods and Hopkins Park.

Freeport Park District

A growing group of Freeport-area residents is working to save a historic building that’s slated for demolition.

The Oakdale Tabernacle is a century-old steel and wood community gathering place owned by the Freeport Park District. It’s also known as the Oakdale Auditorium and is located within the Oakdale Nature Preserve. Park District commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to tear it down.

Bruno/Germany / Pixabay

So you want to build a home studio. You can do it! Two important factors are what you want to use it for and how much you'd like to spend.

But let's start basic.


1) A computer

2) Audio interface (this gets audio into your computer. In a pinch, you could use a portable recorder)

3) DAW software

4) Headphones

5) A good mic or two

Oh, and piles of pillows or blankets to deaden the sound.

Winnebago County State's Attorney's office

A former Rockford police officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to an armed robbery at a bus station in July 2018. Yuliya Kuznets and former Rockford Metro Enforcement officer James Akerman both pleaded guilty to the armed robbery Tuesday before a Winnebago County judge. Kuznets and Akerman had worked together at Rockford Metro Enforcement, a private security company, but had both quit before the robbery took place.

courtesy of Henriette Agnes

Everyone has a story to tell. And one northern Illinois woman has found a way to tell hers, 77 years after Nazis dropped the Blitzkrieg on her doorstep.

World War II started for five-year-old Henriette Kraus on May 10th, 1940.

“I woke up. And there was a lot of noise, and my sisters in their nightgowns, looking out the window. So I went there, too,” she recalled. “And here is the tanks, the trucks, everything is coming down the street. The airplanes are flying over. I mean, I didn't know what was happening. You know, that's how the war started. For me.”

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross will not run for election next year. She announced through a news release Thursday that her tenure as State’s Attorney will end in December 2020.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A food pantry in Rockford is bringing a new attitude to the business of feeding people. The Winnebago Community Market held an open house Wednesday afternoon to show off their revamped space and reveal plans to expand services.

Strong Sound!

Sep 9, 2019


Use of sound sets public radio reporting apart. Always ask yourself what sound you can get as you are planning your story and how it will “take the listener there.” Not just for long, in-depth pieces.

Plan your sound. Discuss with editor. Brainstorm with co-workers. Ask the people you plan to interview what sound epitomizes the issue you are going to talk with them about. Then go to the place and decide for yourself.

Rich Egger takes us there.

WNIJ Sense of Place examples:

Video posted to Facebook by Alyssa Retuerto

A DeKalb church will host a community meeting to discuss last weekend's arrest of a man that has prompted an investigation into excessive use of force by city and county police officers.


A new Illinois law ups the penalties for illegal logging in protected areas. 

The Rockford-based Natural Land Institute was one of the organizations that pushed for changes to the state’s Wrongful Tree Cutting Act. Executive director Kerry Leigh says allowing the owners of damaged nature preserves to recoup the full cost of restoration will deter illegal loggers. 


Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Rockford-area leaders recognize domestic violence and human trafficking as some of the biggest problems in the community. Now the tool they’ve been working on to tackle those issues is closer to becoming a reality.


Tiffany Scott, Rachel Pollock, Mursyidah Syahirah, and Travis Paquin
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

For decades, it was "marijuana" and conjured images of tie-dyed T-shirts and hemp hoodies. Now, it's "cannabis" and you're more likely to picture lab coats and business suits. Our series State of Cannabis continues with a look at the evolution of the public's attitudes. 

It’s Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day at Northern Illinois University, a day when students show off their hard work at the end of the semester.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Students in the School of Business at Northern Illinois University are holding what they call their “Golden Heart Celebration” Monday. The ceremony honors two of their own who were killed in an office shooting in Aurora February 15 -- senior Trevor Wehner and alumnus Clay Parks. It’s also Wehner’s Golden Birthday: he would have been 22 on April 22.

Bloomington Police Department

The 39-year-old Springfield man accused of killing McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner pleaded not guilty in federal court in Rockford Wednesday morning. 

A federal grand jury indicted Floyd E. Brown Tuesday for Keltner's death earlier this month. Keltner was working as a member of a U.S. Marshals Service task force when he was shot and killed while trying to serve a warrant at a Rockford hotel.

Susan Stephens

While politicians debate the merits of legalizing recreational cannabis, many Illinois farmers are more interested in its biological cousin, hemp. Last year, Illinois lawmakers made it legal to grow hemp. Now the race is on for the state to put rules in place in time for the planting season. In this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Susan Stephens talks with some of the people pushing to get the hemp industry off the ground.