Susan Stephens

WNIJ News Reporter/Producer

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.

There are a lot of unfamiliar aircraft in the skies over northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin this week. They’re on their way to the annual Experimental Aircraft Association get-together in Oshkosh. 

Tony Molinaro is with the Federal Aviation Administration for the Great Lakes region. He says as many as ten-thousand small planes converge on the small Wisconsin airport.

You’ll see them in the skies much more often. And not just the regular Pipers and regular planes, you know, the Cessnas. You’ll see the aircraft from WWII and all sorts of unusual planes.

Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Rockford is one of 27 cities that will get help closing “the digital divide” under a White House pilot program.

The plan is called ConnectHome. The idea is to connect 275-thousand low income homes to the internet. That means broadband access, training, and even devices for people living in public housing.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Hundreds of people showed up last night for a brainstorming session about how to make Rockford a better community. Transform Rockford held its first strategy planning meeting for the public: they hope to have a detailed plan by early next year to make the Rockford a “top 25 community” by 2025.

Visitors to the event held at the YMCA in Rockford stopped by idea stations around the gym to talk with lead volunteers about specific interest areas:

JJ Harrison / CC BY -SA 3.0

Mosquitoes have been plentiful -- and voracious -- this summer, thanks to heavy rains that have created perfect breeding habitats for the blood-suckers. Now researchers at the University of Illinois may have found a way to reduce future mosquito populations with the help of some native Midwestern plants.

Yes For Independent Maps / independentmaps.org

Supporters of a drive to change how Illinois’ political maps are drawn are celebrating Monday’s Supreme Court decision on gerrymandering.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can remove partisan politics from redistricting. The justices upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission: Arizona and California have created the commissions by voter referendum. They are independent groups tasked with redrawing Congressional boundaries, a job usually left to the political party in charge in each state.

burpee.org

One of Rockford’s top tourist attractions turns ten this weekend. Burpee Museum of Natural History is holding a birthday party for “Jane,” the world’s most complete juvenile T-Rex.

Jennifer Brdlik / Elevated Care

Patients, growers, and business owners are waiting while Illinois continues the process of setting up its medical cannabis program. One northern Illinois native is in all three of those roles in Arizona, where medical marijuana has been legal for five years. 

Jennifer Brdlik is operations director for “Elevated Care” and “Aromatic Kitchens,” companies that produce cannabis-based foods and tinctures. She spoke with WNIJ’s Susan Stephens about why she got into the business and where she thinks it’s headed in Illinois.

National Weather Service / Google Maps

Nine tornadoes altogether touched down Monday night in northern Illinois, and one was stronger than officials originally determined.

The National Weather Service continues to investigate and evaluate damage and other information about the June 22 severe weather outbreak.

The tornado that caused considerable damage to Coal City, which is south of Chicago on the Grundy-Will county line, has been upgraded from an EF-2 to an EF-3. It was determined that top winds were around 160 miles per hour.

Rachel Scaman / WNIJ

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner continues to meet with legislative leaders to try to hammer out a state budget before the end of the month. Meanwhile, state lawmakers continue to meet with constituents who will be most affected by budget cuts.

Rockford Democrats gathered a crowd of people at a Milestone, Inc. facility north of Rockford. Their causes ranged from breast cancer screenings to home health care assistance.

USS LST Ship Memorial / http://lstmemorial.org/

Fifteen years ago, a group of retired American military veterans bought a dream: a decommissioned Land Ship, Tank that delivered men and equipment to European shores during World War Two. The LST-325 eventually ended up in Greece's Navy. The vets worked hard to make the ship sea-worthy and sailed it back to the U.S. in early 2001. 

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