WNIJ Perspectives

Perspective: The Election That Looms

May 11, 2020
Pixabay + Pixlr

Spoiler alert! No solutions are offered in what follows. Only problems are identified.

A national election looms. Elections require candidates, campaigns, and votes. All are now threatened by grave problems. What are these problems?

First, candidates. Primaries remain; remember Wisconsin? Conventions remain; they nominee candidates and construct platforms. Yes cynics, platforms do matter. Mainly Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominations matter. How do we perform these essential democratic functions virtually? Is there an alternative?

Perspective: A Strange Way To Keep Safe

May 8, 2020
collage using Wikimedia, Pixabay, and Pixlr

I’ve been watching a pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers excavate a cavity in a dead white oak behind the shed. Since I’m home all the time, I can wander over and look at them whenever I feel like it, which is more often than you might expect.

Perspective: Addicted To Words

May 7, 2020

I love words. But sometimes this romance is a curse.

I am not a word expert. But I should be.

I read and write. A lot. Oh, and I’m a journalist.

Words are my foundation — bricks for building stories. My touchstones for telling it as it is. And always, always my friends … for being there when I need them.

But … I am not a word expert. I keep a dictionary nearby. If you’re in a newsroom you can just shout.

“Help! Who knows the rule on lay vs. lie?”

“No one!” someone shouts back. “Find a different word.”

Wikimedia, Pics Art

With the onset of COVID-19, social media platforms show their virtues and vices once again. Millions are finding connection, entertainment, and solace, a lifeline of virtual community during a truly twisted time.


Perspective: Missing John Prine

May 5, 2020
Matt Ludin / National Park Service

Four weeks ago tonight, John Prine caught the April super moon and rode it to heaven. We knew he was sick with the virus and that his chances of recovery were slim, but it still hurt and it still does. I imagine he would have written some good tunes about our current state of being.

As a “young man from a small town with a very large imagination,” he “made up songs,” along his postal route in the Chicago area. I can listen to his lyrics over and over and still get a rush of mixed emotions from his stories that are funny, absurd, devastating — and sometimes all in one song.

Perspective: Is It Monday Again?

May 4, 2020

What day is it today?


The woman on the other end of the phone asked, “How’s your day going?” “Oh, about the same as yesterday...” “Good one,” she says. At least I could inject a bit of humor.


I don’t know about you, but for those of us quarantined at home, it seems as though every day is Sunday: one yawning day without very many milestones. I consider receiving the mail a major event. The governor’s daily address at 2:30 ish in the afternoon is another.


Susan Stephens / WNIJ

As you listen to or read this essay, you will be celebrating the beginning of a brand-new month.  But it is being written and recorded on another milestone -- the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

I was present for the very first one, as a student at the University of Illinois.  Seminars, programs, speeches and leaflets urged the protection of our environment and an appreciation of the outdoors.

If you have ever skimmed a self-help book, you will be familiar with the current trend to plan ahead, strategize and focus.  In a world where so much seems beyond our control, they advise we channel our efforts into well-defined goals.  Unfortunately, such advice never seems to take into account the Enrique Solares approach to life.

Perspective: Claws Out!

Apr 29, 2020
Javier Verues-Ortega / Unsplash

Hey, all you cool cats and kittens!

This is not Carol Baskin. It's Lynnea from Safe Passage. Have you hopped on the craze that is sweeping the nation? Have you fallen prey to the Tiger King? There's a lot of things to love in this series. The wacky hijinks of a gun-toting, sequin-wearing music video star and private zookeeper are just the ticket when you might be getting cabin fever in your home.

Perspective: Finding Gifts

Apr 28, 2020
Susan Stephens

“Come look!” announced my husband on an early spring morning over a month ago. “I have a surprise!”

I followed him out to the backyard, and there rising up out of the cold brown earth, were a myriad of green stems with sheathed yellow flowers just beginning to make themselves known.


“Two hundred daffodils!” my husband beamed brightly. “I planted them last fall in honor of our 50th wedding anniversary. Looks like they made it through the winter.”

Perspective: Migrant Mother

Apr 27, 2020

I clearly remember stories I heard as a kid from my older relatives about living through the Great Depression. The over-arching lesson I took from those accounts was this: unless you lived through it, you couldn’t truly understand what it was like.

Marcus Winkler / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred efforts to control the spread of the virus through development of innovative digital contact tracing tools. In Singapore, Israel and India there is already an app for that. In Europe there’s debate between two competing frameworks, which have names that sound like Star Wars’ droids: PEPP-PT and DT-3T. And in the US, Apple and Google recently announced collaboration on a contact tracing feature that will eventually be integrated with updates to the mobile device operating system.

Perspective: What Does It Take To Govern Well?

Apr 23, 2020
Jehyun Sung / Unsplash

What does it take to govern a nation well?  This question has risen to the top of my list of concerns during these challenging Covid-19 days.  And yes, it has increased my level of anxiety about the future of our nation and its citizens.

Perspective: Six Feet, A Mask, And Clean Hands

Apr 22, 2020
Daniel Acker

If you’re like me, you probably having a hard time changing the idea of social distancing into a habit. That’s not easy.  Old habits die hard.

Why don’t we wear a mask in public, wash our hands more often…or stay at least six feet apart?


We each have our own reasons.  Sometimes we just forget. I do.  And some people just don’t understand the consequences if someone else is exposed to their cough; their hands or something they touched with the virus on it.

Perspective: Educators Are Essential

Apr 21, 2020
National Cancer Institute / via Unsplash

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one unexpected silver lining that I just have to share. Teachers are finally getting some of the love and respect that they so sincerely deserve from parents who now have that role – at least temporarily. Praise for educators is all over social media right now, and even celebrities and sports stars are acknowledging how challenging it is to teach and how appreciative they are for their children’s teachers.

Perspective: Disparities By Design

Apr 20, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is a situation most Americans alive today have not experienced. It’s challenged our American freedoms ranging from how we worship, work, educate, congregate, socialize, shop, vacation, and grieve. As a nation we take pride in our capitalistic economic system. Over the last several weeks we’ve witnessed 401K’s lose value, the stock market crash, along with historic joblessness and unemployment applications. I applaud both sides of the aisle for getting the stimulus package out, which includes the CARES act. But it’s not enough.

Perspective: How Do We Connect Now?

Apr 17, 2020
Vani Subramony

When unprecedented change happens, its repercussions seem to overpower anything worth smiling about in the world. But at the same time, with this huge change in society, comes the effort by so many to heal and reconnect, to positively respond to adversity in the best way we know how. 


Perspective: Trust The Scientists

Apr 16, 2020

The disaster movie starts and when bad things start to happen, a scientist always warns the people to change course. But the people never listen. That’s the gist of a mordant Facebook post circulating among scientists as they, along with the rest of us, have watched this frightening scenario play out in real life.


The pandemic moved so fast and was so vicious that it’s no mystery why people insisted it couldn’t happen here. After all, we’re not Italy, or China.


Perspective: Do Mom And Dad Have A Point?

Apr 14, 2020
Elsa Glover

During tough times, my parents sing a song. It's sweet -- two real voices, not quite in tune, but full of energy.

Whenever I complained, they’d break into song:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative

And don’t mess with Mr. In-Between!

Listening, I often thought it’s old fashioned mumbo jumbo. It’s parent talk.

Finally, I listened to Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters sing the whole song. The lyrics surprised me:


“I never thought I would have to ask for food.” The young mother said as a box was placed in her car.

In the last three weeks over 500,000 Illinois residents have filed for unemployment. We have never seen such a sudden, dramatic increase in the need for food in our region. There are now growing lines at area food pantries. Numbers of those seeking help has tripled. For 70% of them this is their first visit to a food pantry.

Perspective: Good Friday

Apr 10, 2020
Katie Andraski

“You’ll be gone by spring,” said the same voice that drove me to retire. I was afraid this might be true, that I’d be dead by the time the weather warmed. Recent estate planning put death on my mind. I’ve heard enough about the frailty of old age, that it’d be all right by me to leave here with my faculties intact.

Perspective: Zoom Fatigue -- It's A Thing

Apr 9, 2020
Allie Smith / Unsplash

They say that too much screen time is bad for your emotional health. Well, almost overnight, the average amount of screen time for everyone went up dramatically when the country went on a face-to-face lockdown and dropped into a virtual reality world. Interruptions in social activities and fear of the unknown also affect emotional health. Hours of intense screen time in ergonomically incorrect chairs and less time being active affect physical health.

Perspective: Alone And In It Together

Apr 8, 2020
Unsplash and Pixlr

Have you noticed how people passing no longer ask, “How are you?” Instead they gaze at the ground and measure off 6 feet to assure compliance with corona-lockdown.

We don’t comment about the weather: If it’s overcast, it deepens our dark mood. If it’s sunny, we regret that we can’t safely recreate outdoors.

The ubiquitous TV used to allay boredom is now boring, and reality TV shows are nowhere CLOSE to our current reality.

We’re all in this together…and alone.

Perspective: Things That Are Delightful

Apr 7, 2020
Robert Collins / Unsplash

I recently listened to an episode of the podcast This American Life entitled “The Show of Delights”. The uplifting stories were like a breath of fresh air.

This brings me to the question: what brings you delight?

For me it’s reading, family time, a great cup of coffee.  For my three-year-old son, it’s going to Target, the park, saying funny words (like "blubber"), or climbing anywhere he can.

Kids do stuff because it’s fun. I think as adults we oftentimes neglect to build fun into our day.

Perspective: Be The Nation Worth This Struggle

Apr 6, 2020
Nick Bolton / Unsplash

It is always important to use words precisely, but never more than now. One hears terms such as social distance, self-isolation, just plain isolation, communication, and loneliness. It is imperative to use such terms precisely.

Yes, we must maintain social distance for now. Some of us must self-quarantine. But still there must be communication. Public officials must communicate with us. Businesses must communicate. Absolutely, we must continue to communicate with each other.

Perspective: What's Scarier Than A Pandemic?

Apr 3, 2020
Pixabay + Pixlr

I open my mailbox with a cleaning wipe.

I wipe down the mail and then smother my hands with sanitizer.

Welcome to my new normal — being abnormal … during this pandemic.

My county has only a few positive cases of COVID-19. But experts say numbers are deceiving and I should not feel safe. It’s most likely here … surrounding me.

Perspective: The Nature Of Worry

Apr 2, 2020
Annie Spratt / Unsplash

I have a beer bottle cap in the pocket of my spring coat that I worry with my thumb and forefinger. I’m not sure how long the bottle cap has been there. I find it with my fingers, and then I forget about it again. 


Perspective: Leadership In The Time Of Pandemic

Apr 1, 2020

In a few short weeks COVID-19 has come to grip the nation. Practically overnight we are uncomfortably settling into economic uncertainty, self-quarantining, online education, and accepting social distancing.

All the while, unfortunately, the leadership coming out of Washington is often contradictory, confused, and uncertain. It seems as though the most important message on the mind of the White House is how great of a job Mr. Trump is doing -- a dubious, self-righteous, point-missing affront to the grave urgency of the moment, a moment that grows exponentially more dire daily.

NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory / NOAA

I imagine there’s an unwritten law in public radio not to talk about astrology, at least in any serious way, but in these trying times maybe there’s an exception.


So I checked in with my favorite stargazer, Rob Brezsny. I have followed his “Freewill Astrology” forecasts, periodically, for many years. His is a whimsical approach, full of anecdotes and mythological references, lighthearted but insightful.


Perspective: Physically Distant, Socially Together

Mar 30, 2020

Stay six feet apart. Don’t leave home except for groceries and essentials. Don’t go to the playground and don’t go visit your neighbors. Spray all the doorknobs with Lysol every hour. This is all excellent advice for keeping your body healthy. It isn’t such a great way to nurture your soul.