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.

Rockford Register Star

Unemployment rates in Rockford tend to be among the highest in northern Illinois. For African Americans, that rate is nearly double.

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with former Rockford Register Star reporter Brian Leaf about what’s being done to remedy that.  It was one of Leaf’s last stories as a reporter for the paper and is part of our collaboration “Race in the Rock River Valley.”

Max Gersch, Sunny Strader / Rockford Register Star

Overt racism is usually pretty easy to spot. But there’s another less-obvious type of racist behavior that can also hurt.  WNIJ and the Rockford Register Star are kicking off a year-long collaboration called “Race in the Rock River Valley” with an examination of “microaggressions.”

rrstar.com

This weekend, the Rockford Register Star -- in partnership with WNIJ News -- kicks off a year-long series on race in the Rock River Valley. 

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens spoke with Register Star Executive Editor Mark Baldwin about the reasons behind the project. The series kicks off in the newspaper Sunday, Nov. 13. Tuesday on WNIJ, we’ll hear from Rockford residents about their experiences with “microaggressions.”

NIU

A Northern Illinois University student has reported that four men in a truck harassed him, using racial slurs and displaying a shotgun and a Nazi flag, and the university confirms that police are investigating.

NIU learned on Friday of a Facebook post about the alleged incident, which took place during the noon hour Thursday just off campus in a parking lot in the 100 block of North Annie Glidden Road. The student was not injured.

http://www.ci.freeport.il.us/

Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz says it’s time to make way for new leaders. He announced Thursday he will NOT run for re-election. 

Gitz was elected in 2013: he also served two terms as mayor, from 1997 - 2005. Gitz says he’s ready for a career change and had made up his mind before Tuesday’s election. That’s when Freeport voters decided to change to a city manager style government, making their mayor a part-time position.  

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

If you couldn’t make it to Chicago Friday to celebrate the Cubs world championship, don’t despair. You’ll get another chance to celebrate Sunday, but on a smaller scale.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Is the Jack-o-Lantern on your doorstep a little overripe? Some communities want you to compost your moldering pumpkins. 

The DeKalb County Health Department's Solid Waste and Recycling Program encourages people to put them out with yard waste and offers three drop-off sites:

• Fire Station #2 - 1154 South 7th Street, DeKalb

• City Garden Plots, west of Fire Station #3 - 950 W. Dresser Road, DeKalb

• The southeast corner of North 7th Street and Oak Street, DeKalb

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

DeKalb County voters will choose their top prosecutor November 8th. State’s Attorney Richard Schmack is being challenged by Republican Rick Amato.

Campaign websites, social media

The 69th District covers an area of far northern Illinois and includes the communities of Belvidere, Caledonia, Capron, Cherry Valley, Loves Park, Machesney Park, Roscoe, South Beloit, and Timberlane. Republican Joe Sosnowski has represented the district since 2010.

This year, Sosnowski is being challenged by Democrat Angelique Bodine of Poplar Grove. She says she’s running because of her frustration with the state budget impasse, and she pledges to stand up for working families.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The man in charge of the Cook County Jail says correctional facilities can do a much better job dealing with inmates who have mental health issues. Sheriff Tom Dart spoke to the League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford last night about his decade of efforts to support people with mental illnesses who end up in his jail. 

Dart says budget cuts for mental health programs have made things more difficult.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Imagine a presidential debate that is civil and about issues. That’s what happened Friday at Jefferson High School in Rockford, where students Andrea Stout and Haifa Ali debated.

They weren’t pretending to be the current presidential candidates: Instead, they represented the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties.

The two candidates answered questions about immigration, voting rights, higher education, and the economy.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

What does it mean to be an American? We continue our election year series, A Nation Engaged, by looking at American Identity.

Nearly four decades ago, Sunil Puri left Mumbai, India to visit a relative in the U.S. He showed up in Rockford, Illinois, fresh out of high school and with $150 in his pocket. He’s come a long way since 1979.

“I was a rebel who believed in the promise called America,” says Puri. And not with a solid blessing from his parents. But as the youngest of six sons, he knew the opportunities in his family’s business were limited for him.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Rockford Housing Authority leaders have a plan they hope will make the city’s public housing a better place for to live.

Officers from the Rockford Police Department patrol the city’s public schools. Now the Rockford Housing Authority wants a similar arrangement for its housing developments.

Like the school district, the housing authority would pay for the program: it would cost around $900,000 a year to hire and equip the seven member police unit.

CherryVale Mall Reopens After Shooting

Oct 1, 2016

Police are looking for seven men in connection with a shooting at CherryVale Mall Friday. The busy mall just east of Rockford was on lockdown for several hours, then evacuated. Two groups of men had an altercation in the mall around 5 p.m. Friday, according to police.

One man pulled out a gun and fired shots.

Traces of blood were found in the mall, but no reported injuries.

All seven involved in the fight fled and police are still looking for them.

It’s final. An initiative to change the way legislative maps are drawn in Illinois will not appear on the November ballot.

The Illinois Supreme Court voted 4-3 against a request to reconsider its ruling about the Independent Maps Coalition’s proposal. The coalition collected 563,000 petition signatures, with a goal of asking voters to decide whether mapmaking power should be handed over to an independent commission. Currently, the party in charge of the state legislature gets to redraw political maps after a new census.

Susan Stephens

  Rockford has a long and storied baseball history. Now, an international organization hopes to create a long and storied future for the sport there.

The International Women’s Baseball Center isn’t a place...yet. Right now, it’s a nonprofit that promotes women’s baseball and works to preserve its history. But this Saturday, the organization plants its feet on home plate in Rockford, right across the street from Beyer Stadium.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Ground was broken Tuesday on a housing development that’s seen as a critical step in changing the face of public housing in Rockford.

Rosecrance / rosecrance.org

A Rockford center that helps people who are having a psychiatric crisis will close in 30 days, unless it comes up with funding that’s being held back by the state. 

U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives

Two big names in Wisconsin politics easily beat their rivals in yesterday’s primary election. 

Sorting truth from lies during any election can be a daunting task. But some educators see this election cycle as an important teachable moment.

Louise Basile chairs the social studies department at Boylan High School in Rockford.  “Students need to be taught to be critical thinkers about all experiences in life,” she says, “so they make informed choices and understand the consequences of them.”

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The case of The People vs. Jack McCullough is back in a DeKalb County courtroom Friday. The story of the disappearance of Maria Ridulph spans seven decades.

Seven-year-old Maria Ridulph of Sycamore was kidnapped and murdered in 1957. Jack McCullough was convicted in the cold case in 2012: He was freed earlier this year when his conviction was vacated.

A lot happened in between.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

We’re learning a lot more about the workhorse of the world’s flower beds and planter boxes: the Petunia Genome Project is complete, with the help of researchers from Northern Illinois University.

NIU professors Tom Sims and Rick Johns were among the primary researchers in the four year project. Johns says mapping the petunia’s DNA involved 50 researchers from 10 countries.

Science used to be one scientist working in a lab with a few students but now international collaboration is the rule, not the exception.

unitedwayrrv.org

The financial struggle isn’t over for the organizations that provide social services to people in need in Illinois.

There are still a lot of questions about the stopgap budget passed by lawmakers, according to Paul Logli. He’s the president and CEO of United Way of Rock River Valley. Logli says providers have heard from a number of state agencies that they have 18-month contracts that expire January 1st.

Austin Cliffe

Bees, bats, and other animals that perform the critical job of pollinating plants are in the spotlight this week. We observe National Pollinators Week by donning our beekeeping veil and joining Lynnea Laskowski as she takes care of her hives. She’s a volunteer beekeeper with DeKalb County Community Gardens -- she and her bees spoke with WNIJ's Susan Stephens.

Winnebago County Bar Association

Illinois is approaching a new fiscal year without a state budget. The head of an organization that helps fund social service agencies says citizens need to demand more from their lawmakers. 

Paul Logli is president and CEO of United Way of Rock River Valley. He told the crowd at the Rockford Urban Ministries annual meeting Friday that no matter where they stand politically, they have to be unforgiving of ALL state lawmakers about the budget impasse.

ufaniu.org

It's official. Northern Illinois University faculty members have formed a union. They were certified by the Illinois Labor Relations Board Monday.

NIU faculty members filed an intent to unionize in April: now they can get to work as the UFA -- the United Faculty Alliance of Northern Illinois University. It will represent more than 600 tenured and tenure track faculty members.

Voices for Creative Non-Violence / vcnv.org

A 125-mile walk from Chicago to Thomson ends Saturday for a group protesting solitary confinement. 

Voices for Creative Non-Violence holds a rally outside Thomson Prison, where the federal government plans to add as many as 19-hundred isolation cells. The group’s co-coordinator Kathy Kelly says she hopes Thomson residents will join their rally.  She says she sees this as “the beginning of an opportunity to learn more from people in this little town of 600.”

Rockford Police Department

Rockford City Council will determine the next step in the case of a police officer who wants to return to duty after being fired five years ago. Oda Poole was one of two officers involved in the 2009 shooting of Mark Barmore, an unarmed man who was killed in a church daycare center. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Anywhere you go in America, you are never far from railroad tracks. Someone has to maintain all of those tracks. And someone has to build the machines to do it. That’s why the owners of a Rockford company want Congress to know railway maintenance is a five-billion dollar industry that deserves support.  

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