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.

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

STRONG SOUND = STRONGER STORIES

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.

PIXABAY

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.

Rockford Police Department via Facebook

Red and blue lights flashed for miles in Rockford Thursday night as police officers and firefighters from across the region took part in a procession across the city. They accompanied the body of a McHenry County Deputy Sheriff from the hospital where he died to the coroner’s office.

Victoria Lunacek

A Rockford police officer fired shots during a traffic stop Wednesday morning. Police Chief Dan O’Shea says the driver then died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Randy Cook

We've survived the record-low temperatures and brutal windchills this week -- but the aftershocks are still being felt in northern Illinois. While most schools and businesses have returned to their normal schedules, DeKalb Public Schools are closed again.  That's because their transportation provider informed the district that many of their buses won't start, so they can't transport kids to school. Problems with diesel engines kept NIU closed an additional day because the Huskie Bus Lines couldn't run. That service resumes Friday morning at 7:00. 

SCHOOL CLOSINGS:

National Weather Service

School Closings: early dismissal unless otherwise noted

Rock Valley College is closing at 3:00 today. Classes beginning at 3 or later are canceled. Board of Trustees meeting is canceled and will be rescheduled.

Kishwaukee College closed at 11. All classes are canceled and all offices are closed.

Highland Community College

Sauk Valley Community College:closed today, late start Wednesday at 11:00.

North Love Baptist College: night classes canceled

Rockford Park District

The man who made the Rockford Park District an award-winning entity has died. Webbs Norman passed away Saturday at the age of 85.

Norman was Executive Director of the Rockford Park District from 1972 to 2006. He led the development of many of the city's biggest recreational projects, including Magic Waters water park, two ice arenas, the Sportscore complexes, and many parks, playgrounds, and paths.

Nelle Conley

Seven years ago, a girls school founded by two Northern Illinois University professors opened its doors to its first eleven students in rural western Kenya. Now, 160 girls attend the school that has a goal of being “good enough for the richest, open to the poorest.” The school added music to its curriculum this year, and that created a mutual opportunity for one DeKalb native. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Susan Stephens sits down with Nelle Conley before she heads back to Kenya.

       

photo provided

An Illinois Democrat has been elected to head her party's Congressional campaign committee. 

Representative Cheri Bustos is only the second woman to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She beat out two other representatives from Washington State who wanted to lead the organization that’s tasked with getting more Democrats elected to the House.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

25% of Illinois’ electricity is supposed to be generated by renewable energy sources by 2025, under the Future Energy Jobs Act – and that’s going to require a big increase in wind farms across the state. But one northern Illinois county made it much tougher for the wind industry to expand Wednesday night.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Catholic Diocese of Rockford has released a list of 15 clerics accused of sexually abusing minors. The list includes priests, a deacon, and a brother. The accusations range from 1925 to 1991. Some of the names were released previously, but some are being disclosed for the first time. All have been removed from the ministry and ten have died. Bishop David Malloy says the list is being released to “reassure the faithful and public at large.” It's available on the Rockford Diocese website.

courtesy of John Borling, Hans Rupert

200 men and women from across Illinois have been named to the state’s “Bicentennial Honor 200” list. They’re being recognized as military veterans who continue to serve their communities. Veterans from 50 counties across Illinois will be honored next month at the state’s 200th birthday celebration at Navy Pier in Chicago. Two of them are from Rockford.

 

Election day is just a week away. Voters in the 16th Congressional District will choose between Republican incumbent Adam Kinzinger and Democratic challenger Sara Dady.

Tronc.

Comedian John Oliver once said that was the sound of a stack of newspapers being thrown into a dumpster.

Now, the Chicago Tribune reports its parent company, Tronc, is changing its name back to Tribune Publishing.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Illinois is only seven years away from its deadline for getting 25% of the state’s energy from renewable sources. Wind power will have to play a big part to reach that ambitious goal. The state ranks 6th in the nation for the number of wind turbines, at more than 2,600. These wind farms are generally located in rural areas, many on active farms where people are raising corn and soybeans. The wind becomes a third crop that can be “harvested” year-round, giving the farmer a steady rental income.

NPR Illinois

Students across Illinois are heading back to school. And increasingly, they’re finding alternatives to bachelor’s degrees to reach their career goals.  NPR-Illinois hosted a forum in Rockford on Thursday about training today’s workforce. Northern Illinois University associate vice president Rena Cotsones and Workforce Connection director Lisa Bly had advice for students setting off on a career path.

Winnebago County State's Attorney's office

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato says a former Rockford police officer is one of two people facing charges for an armed robbery.

 

Former officer Yuliya Kuznets and former Rockford Metro Enforcement officer James Akerman are accused of committing armed robbery at the Van Galder bus depot July 22. Kuznets also worked for Rockford Metro Enforcement, which is a private security company. The two quit the company earlier this year.

 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Chicago has them. So does St. Charles. Even Naperville. Does your town allow backyard chickens?

DeKalb doesn’t, but a group of egg fans is eager to bring the issue up with the city council, where a backyard chicken proposal was rejected six years ago.       

People want eggs – not alarm clocks. So roosters generally are not allowed in urban backyards. But even with roosters out of the picture, local governments are still wary about letting people put up a chicken coop in their backyard, no matter how cute the little shed is.

courtesy Bob Pritchard / Facebook

A state representative from northern Illinois is leaving the legislature six months early. 

Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, announced last year that he wouldn’t run for re-election, but he planned to continue representing the DeKalb area until his replacement is sworn in in January. That plan changed this week.

"I’ve been appointed to a board by the governor," said Pritchard. "As such, I had to resign from my legislative position. And that is all taking place on July 1."

provided by Sara Dorner

People across the nation plan to take to the streets June 30 to protest recent immigration policies that separate families crossing the southwest border of the United States. That includes marches in at least five Illinois cities.

Rockford activist Sara Dorner says she was so angry that children were being separated from their parents at the U.S. border that she contacted the White House, her senators, her representative -- and it still wasn’t enough.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

75 years ago this week, the women of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League put on their skirts and cleats and trotted out onto four Midwestern ball fields for the first time. Now some of those players are in Rockford to celebrate their history and help push women’s baseball into the future. 

Back in 1943, chewing-gum magnate P.K. Wrigley decided that America needed more baseball to keep spirits up during World War II. Since the "boys" were away fighting, he called on the "girls" to do the patriotic thing and entertain the Home Front. And, boy, did they!

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