Friday Forum

WNIJ's Friday Forum features  in-depth interviews with state officials, community leaders, and others whose decisions influence your life. You can hear it every Friday during Morning Edition on 89.5 FM and WNIJ.org.

Randy Sager

During World War II, Jewish prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin learned Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem and performed it 16 times. This weekend at Northern Illinois University, that story of affirmation and defiance toward their captors will be commemorated through Verdi's music, historic film footage, testimonials from camp survivors, and narration. The program, Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin, will be led by its creator, conductor Murry Sidlin. He's conducted it close to fifty times around the world.

This year's Weissberg Chair in Human Rights and Social Justice at Beloit College is Joel Simon. Simon, a journalist and author, has been executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) since 2006. Friday night, Simon will give a public lecture on freedom of the press. Saturday, Simon will take part in a panel discussion called "Valuing Fact and Truth in the Age of Fake News." WNIJ's Guy Stephens spoke with Simon for this week's Friday Forum.

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.

Victoria Lunacek

Fiat Chrysler announced recently that it will cut third shift operations at its Belvidere production facility in May. The plant produces the Jeep Cherokee. The company cited global demand as part of the reason. On this week's Friday Forum, we learn how the decision could have a much larger ripple effect on the economy.

The shift change will affect 1,371 jobs.

Jenna Dooley

In a previous Friday Forum, we spoke with former Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey about his opposition to the Catholic Diocese of Rockford's plan to demolish its former chancery, which is the traditional name for a diocese's administrative offices. It was built in 1929 and has been vacant for nearly a decade. Morrissey joined a group calling for historic designation for the chancery and a pair of surrounding buildings near Court Street.

BIFF

The Beloit International Film Festival begins its 10-day run next week. Organizers say it represents the best in filmmaking. On today's Friday Forum, Guy Stephens found this year’s festival also reflects a shift in film culture.

Marty Densch is executive director of the festival, commonly referred to as BIFF. He said, in some ways, the 14th festival is much like it's been in recent years, with a full slate of offerings.

Coloring books for adults are growing in popularity. Curators at Northern Illinois University's Founder's Memorial Library hope the hobby can bring attention to one of their more unique collections. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with the curators about the "ColorOurCollections" event.

Last February, a threat made on social media forced a lock-down across the DeKalb County School District.

It was a part of a wave of threats made to schools in days and weeks following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The incident in DeKalb did not end in tragedy, but it made school district officials think about their emergency protocols.

Pixabay

Chapters of the Human Library are popping up around the world as a way to challenge stereotypes and encourage active listening. The Northern Illinois Chapter will host an event Saturday at Rockford Public Library's East Branch. On this week's Friday Forum, we learn more about what makes this library unique.

Sarah Jesmer

Democrat Lauren Underwood got a lot of attention when she upset incumbent Randy Hultgren to take the seat in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District. She became the youngest African-American woman elected to Congress. And she won with a progressive platform in what was considered a heavily Republican district.  In this week's Friday Forum, we hear Underwood’s thoughts on her new job.

On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with Noel Storm and Casey Clabby who helped make the film for others to understand life after the diagnosis.

Noel Storm had a bilateral mastectomy in 2007 and it changed her life forever.

"Once I had my surgery, I realized that my purpose was to help other women through the process of the surgery because I realized there was so much emotional baggage that went with it," Storm said.

Pixabay

John Perryman is a pediatrician with Mercyhealth in Roscoe. He sees patients struggling to afford medications. Some families, he says, disappear for stretches of time when they fall off an insurance plan. On this week's Friday Forum, Jenna Dooley talks with Perryman about his view as well as from a major opponent of the idea.

 

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.

       

Longtime Activist Minister Joins DeKalb County Board

Dec 21, 2018
Photo by Peter Medlin

In the summer of 2017, Rev. Linda Slabon and her partner both retired. Slabon was a Unitarian Universalist minister and social worker, while her partner was a professor at Northern Illinois University.

 

Like many retirees, Slabon used her newfound free time to do more gardening. They threw a Disney Frozen-themed birthday party for their granddaughter.

 

Behind The Numbers: A Closer Look At Campus Safety

Dec 14, 2018
Claire Buchanan

This fall, Northern Illinois University released its annual Safety and Security report. We spoke with university and community leaders to find out how they are trying to keep students safe.

The annual report details campus crime statistics for the past 3 years. It’s mandated by the Jeanne Clery Act. The act is named for Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. All institutions of higher education that participate in federal student financial assistance must publish an annual report.

Jenna Dooley

At FONA International in Geneva, Illinois, scientists develop the next generation of flavors used by companies around the globe. In this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley visits the lab during a recent tour with students from Batavia High School.

It might be the closest thing to working at the Willy Wonka candy factory.

"In the morning it smells like coffee, and in the afternoon it always smells like sweet vanilla or some sort of fruit," according to Katie Sudler, the community education director at FONA.

Mental Health Problem Remains After 'Movember' Ends

Nov 30, 2018
Provided by Jace Pesina

As the calendar month comes to a close, so does No Shave November, an awareness and fundraising campaign. Participators forgo grooming all month to draw attention to high testicular cancer rates. Another campaign, Movember, piggybacks on the no-shave movement. Movember is meant to bring awareness to men's mental health in addition to cancer rates. Men are encouraged to grow a mustache and raise money for research causes. Jace Pesina is an emergency medical technician in DeKalb County.

Pixabay

Cyber Monday has grown in popularity as companies offer online deals the Monday after Black Friday. As people use different platforms to make these purchases, their personal information may become vulnerable. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with an expert who teaches cybersecurity in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois.
 

John Bambenek says people who try to steal your information mimic brands you're familiar with. He suggests going directly to the websites where you want to make a purchase.

A few weeks ago, WNIJ got a request from a student group at Northern Illinois University asking for a tour of the radio station. The handful of students were with the NIU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, or NABJ. The group offers professional development and networking opportunities for students interested in broadcasting. As they were touring the studios, they agreed to let the microphones be turned on them.

Dejaniria Ferguson is a journalism major from Chicago.

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.

Pixabay

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently revealed that she has been diagnosed with the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease. O’Connor’s husband also lived his final years with the disease.

DeKalb Area Women's Center

The former DeKalb Finnish Temperance Hall was completed 100 years ago. On this week's Friday Forum, we learn what the building was used for then and now.

Anna Marie Coveny spends a great deal of time at a tall, white building on State Street in DeKalb. It looks like an old church with a tall center column. It is surrounded with wild flowers most of the year. But it was never a religious site. It was built in 1917, and completed in 1918 as the Finnish Temperance Hall.

St. Olaf

St. Olaf College in Minnesota is known for its traveling musicians. The band took its first concert tour to several small cities in the southern Minnesota and Iowa back in 1905. This year's tour includes stops in Elgin and DeKalb. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley learns more about what goes into preparing these performances.

SETI

Jill Tarter is an astronomer and Chair Emeritus for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. SETI stands for "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence." Tarter was the basis for the character played by Jodie Foster in the movie adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel "Contact." She will present the lecture "A Cosmic Perspective: Searching For Aliens, Finding Ourselves" at Fermilab in Batavia later this month. On this week's Friday Forum, she talks with WNIJ's Jenna Dooley about the search for life beyond Earth.

Jenna Dooley

Northern Illinois University recently held the 5th annual Unity Walk in DeKalb. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley talks with participants about what it means to take part in the event.

The Unity Walk began five years ago following protests in Missouri over the death of Michael Brown, a resident of Ferguson. Brown was killed by a police officer, resulting in national news and tense relations between the community and law enforcement.

Jenna Dooley

The 2018 class of the Northern Illinois University Huskie Marching Band increased by more than 50 members from last year. Tom Bough has been NIU's Director of Athletic Bands for the past 14 years. On this week's Friday Forum, he talks about how he keeps everyone tapping to the same beat.

Jenna Dooley

The National Skydiving Championships are being held in northern Illinois this month. Hundreds of jumpers are using the dropzone at the Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle. On this week's Friday Forum, jumpers talk about their love for the sport.

Steve Verner is a tandem jump instructor. He has perfectly styled silver hair and wears tight fitting athletic wear. He looks like he's ready to run a marathon or bike a long trail. But his passion is more extreme: skydiving.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to transport, buy or sell any migratory bird, and its nests or eggs, among other provisions. It’s been around for 100 years. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley learns more about the Act and local efforts to conserve bird populations.

Winnebago County birder Lee Johnson has been bird banding for more than half of the treaty's lifespan and he has seen improvements in that time.

Photo Provided

 

Listeners of DeKalb-based "B95" (WDKB-FM) recently heard the final local newscast from longtime newsman Brian Adams. Adams accepted a position as a reporter at KNIA/KRLS in Knoxville, IA.

Adams was a newscaster at B95 for the past 22 years. During that time, he covered countless local government meetings as well as breaking news events, including blizzards, tornadoes, a monster truck accident and the fatal campus shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

Guy Stephens

Shabbona native and agronomist Sarah Carlson says decisions at the grocery store could lead to changes in what farmers plant. On this week's Friday Forum, Carlson talks with WNIJ's Jenna Dooley about her unique role working with farmers and large businesses to find ways to grow and market foods that enrich the land.

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