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.

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Gas prices continue to drop all around the state. In Rockford, the cost of a gallon of regular fell more than a nickel since last week, to $2.50.

The state average is $2.60 a gallon. That’s down about 3 and a half cents from last week and 95 cents cheaper than it was a year ago. Drivers are spending 30 cents less per gallon than they were just a month ago.

The biggest health system in the DeKalb area is joining Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. That’s if a plan wins approval by state regulators.

KishHealth System and Northwestern Memorial Health Care announced they’ve agreed to join together. Their boards issued a joint statement about the proposed merger Wednesday. This means Northwestern Medicine would expand to include a total of six hospitals and 90 locations in northern Illinois.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Renewable energy may be getting a boost from President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. For one business owner in Rockford, it’s part of his mission.

Lee Schreiner shows off the meter connected to his new solar panels at 201 7th Street. On a fairly sunny July afternoon, it was producing six to seven thousand watts of power. And Schreiner was happy.

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 /

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.

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.