Free Range Radio

Sunday, 6pm - 7pm


Not all great public radio programs are easily categorized. That's where WNIJ's Free Range Radio comes in. It's a collection of nationally-syndicated and locally-produced documentaries, features and music specials which otherwise might not find a home on our regular program schedule. Hear something new every week.

Free Range Radio for July 2014

7/6: Humankind: The Right To Vote. We celebrate our nation’s independence by examining one of our most basic rights as Americans: our right to vote. We’ll hear diverse voices and viewpoints, through current and archival audio, on the long battle over who has the right to take part in our democracy.

7/13: Who Cares.  The backbone of long-term care in America is the family. One out of three adults is taking care of a loved one who is chronically ill or elderly. But who takes care of the caregivers? We follow three caregiving families to try to understand the challenges they face, the stresses they endure, and the power of family.

7/20: One Giant Leap. 45 years ago today, Neil Armstrong took one small step for man. We celebrate the moon landing with stories from those who witnessed it and memories from those who played a part in it. Interviews include the Apollo Flight Director, the son of former Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev, and Tom Hanks, who produced the miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon.”

7/27: Walk In The Park: Hearing Voices.  Here we are, knee-deep in summer. It’s time for a trip to the park. From Yellowstone to the Everglades to Zion National Park to that community park just around the corner… spend your summer vacation with some of public radio’s favorite producers, including Scott Carrier, Katie Davis, and Jay Allison.


Free Range Radio for June 2014

1 Angelou and Terkel - the 1970 Interview. We remember the great poet, performer, and activist by dipping into the Studs Terkel Radio Archive for this historic pairing. Maya Angelou chats with Studs Terkel about growing up in Stamps, Arkansas, and her early adulthood experiences as recounted in her new (at the time) autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

8 American Graduate - We'll take you from getting members of the class of 2025 excited about their futures to doing whatever it takes to keep teens from dropping out. We'll also highlight our own Mike Moen's year-long series following the educational paths of two students at Jefferson High School in Rockford. Celebrate the graduation season with us in this ongoing series examining education in America.

15 Re:Sound - The Taking Care Show Just in time for Father's Day, we bring you stories of the delicate interdependence between being in need and answering the call to help. Re:Sound debuts on WNIJ. It's produced by those talented storytellers at the Third Coast International Audio Festival and will be featured throughout the summer on Free Range Radio.

22 Re:Sound - The Night Show Shhhh. Listen. Listen to the night. Night at the zoo, blackouts at night, museums after dark, all-night pawn shops, and the people who work while everyone else sleeps. You never know what you'll hear when you focus your ears, not your eyes.

29 Reveal - PRX and the Center for Investigative journalism team up again for the latest episode of their investigative radio collaboration. Al Letson hosts and teams of journalists delve deeply into important stories, including U.S. water standards and equipment failures in our military.


Free Range Radio for May 2014

May 4: American Graduate -- Crossing The Stage: Hosted by Dick Gordon, this program talks about what’s happening with the drop-out rate in the country. More kids are staying in school but those numbers might be misleading. We’ll hear about some of the new thinking – ways to make school more appealing or more meaningful so students want to stay in high school, and we’ll get a sobering take on the GED, long thought to be a reasonable alternative to a high school diploma.

May 11: All Aboard! We celebrate National Train Day by hopping on trains and seeing where they take us. We'll also meet a group of dedicated rail fans who have turned their passion into life-long friendships. 

May 18: The STEM Story Project: PRX, the public radio exchange, is always looking for new ways to tell science, technology, engineering, and math stories. Some great radio producers took up that challenge and you can hear some of their best work here. Highlights include the architectural version of the Edsel, Bubble Houses, two young female scientists take on malaria in birds in the Galapagos, and a whole new type of club for kids -- Hacker Scouts.

  May 25: Monumental Disagreements: Memorials in America -- This is a country awash in monuments. They are the centerpieces of traffic circles, street corners and, of course, the National Mall. We have erected them to Rosie the Riveter and Confederate generals. Yet our ambivalence towards these monuments is as old as our enthusiasm for them. In this Memorial Day episode of BackStory with the American History Guys, we take on national remembrance. By looking at some of our country’s most iconic monuments, the Guys ask what—and whom—Americans choose to remember. They discover that memorials often tell us more about their creators than what or whom they memorialize.


Free Range Radio for April 2014

April 6th: Play ball! We celebrate the return of baseball season withHome Team,” from Hearing Voices. Host Gwen Macsai and her team of storytellers hit it out of the park with tales of “The Potato Ball Caper,” life in the Rookie League, the Cardinals’ “Bushy Wishy Beer Man,” and more.

April 13th: “Passover Dreams.” Passover begins on the 14th, and audio magician Jim Metzner takes us along on his trip from the seder table to the edge of the universe. He conjures seder guests ranging from Frederick Douglass to Lenny Bruce to help answer questions about Passover and what it means for Americans today.

April 20th: “Church Music” is the heart of this Easter special as we explore the many kinds of church music in America. This encore presentation of Charles Lane’s special will introduce us to the cultures and people behind the voices.

April 27th: We celebrate National Poetry Month with When Words Matter, a State of the Re:Union special hosted by Al Letson. 

  • Free-Range Radio for March 2014:

March 2nd: The Hidden World of Girls, Part 1  

This encore broadcast of the two part series is hosted by writer/comedian Tina Fey. From the dunes of the Sahara to a slumber party in Manhattan, from the dancehalls of Jamaica to a racetrack in Ramallah, Fey takes us around the world into the secret life of girls and the women they become. These specials are produced by Peabody Award-winning producers, The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva), in collaboration with NPR reporters and foreign correspondents, independent producers and listeners around the world. Part one features rite of passage stories about Sioux girls, Travellers, and hunters in Mississippi.

March 9th: The Hidden World of Girls, Part 2

The second hour of this Kitchen Sisters-produced special honoring the lives of girls includes Horses, Unicorns, and Dolphins, The Hidden World of Kandahar Girls, and Chicken Pills: The Hidden World of Jamaican Girls and eight other fascinating stories.

March 16th: Adapting to Climate Change 

This special explores the ambitious plans that engineers, scientists, government officials, business leaders, NGOs, and community groups around the world are making to deal with future catastrophic events and shifting weather patterns. Among the stops on this global discussion: the Midwest, to explore preparations for droughts and floods.

March 23rd: Stories from the Heart of the Land -- Depending on Nature

What better way to celebrate spring than by getting in touch with nature? We're all dependent on the land, although some people feel that connection more keenly than others. Those are the people we'll hear from in this one-hour special from producer Jay Allison. They'll take us foraging in the woods of northern Vermont, on a hunt for a sense of "home" in New Guinea, stone wall building in the U.K., and looking for wide open spaces in Mongolia. Producer Charles Bowden even introduces us to a plant that only blooms on the hottest, darkest night of the year.

March 30th: Reveal 

This new investigative series from PRX and the Center for Investigative Reporting takes on a number of important issues in a fast-moving hour. This is the second in the series and features the following: 

- Where is all that heroin in the Midwest coming from? WBEZ and The Chicago Reader trace the path from Ciudad Juarez to Chicago and beyond. 

- We travel to Rikers Island in New York to see what life is like for teens in solitary confinement.

- We check back in on a story from last year's Reveal pilot: the over-prescription of opiates to veterans through the VA.

- No animals were harmed in the production of this film? Sure of that? We look at the questionable relationship between filmmakers and the American Humane Society.

- A female farmworker talks about how her life has changed since she spoke out about sexual abuse in the fields.

  • Previous Free-Range Radio Broadcasts:

February 2nd, 2014: Re:Defining Black History introduces us to some of the stories outside of the usual great moments in civil rights history.

February 9th, 2014: We bring back the 2011 special Say It Loud: Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African-American Identity to hear some of the greatest civil rights speeches from the 60s to the present.

February 16th, 2014: Going Black: the Legacy of Philly Soul Radio revisits the music of the civil rights era and the deejays who brought it to audiences hungering for change.

February 23rd, 2014: Actor Charles S. Dutton hosts Civil Rights In America: Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall, and Beyond. The hour-long special examines the connections (and disconnects) throughout history between activists fighting for equal rights for African-Americans, women, and homosexuals.


January 26th, 2014: Best of the Third Coast Short Docs Contest, as compiled by WNIJ's Susan Stephens.

January 12th and 19th, 2014: Best of the Best 2013: The Third Coast International Audio Festival, parts 1 & 2.

January 5th, 2014: Reveal - The pilot episode of an occasional investigative series by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Hosted by Al Letson.


December 29th, 2013: A Season’s Griot - This annual one-hour Kwanzaa special captures the tales and traditions of African-American and African peoples

December 22nd, 2013: Tinsel Tales 2 - More humor, warmth, and festive voices

December 15th, 2013: Tinsel Tales - Stories from the NPR archives that touch on the meaning of Christmas

December 8th, 2013: Arts Adapting - How arts organizations in Rockford are adapting to changing cultural and economic environments

December 1st, 2013: Hanukkah Lights - Hanukkah stories and memoirs as read by NPR's Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz


November 24th, 2013: Ties That Bind - The Story Corps Tenth Anniversary Special

November 17th, 2013: We Knew JFK

November 10th, 2013: BURN: An Energy Journal, Rising Seas


October 6th - November 3rd, 2013: State Of The ReUnion - Season 4


September 15th, 2013: Rockford Symphony Orchestra 2013-2014 Classics Concert Series Preview

September 8th, 2013: American RadioWorks - "Second Chance Diploma - Examining the GED"

September 1st, 2013: American RadioWorks - "One Child At a Time: Custom Learning in the Digital Age"


August 25th, 2013: The Tobolowski Files - "The Afflictions of Love"

August 18th, 2013: The Tobolowski Files - "The Classic"

August 11th, 2013: The Tobolowski Files - "The Alchemist"

August 4th, 2013: The Tobolowski Files - "The Dangerous Animals Club"


July 28th, 2013: Becoming Bionic

July 21st, 2013: Diary of a Bad Year: A War Correspondent's Dilemma

July 14th, 2013: Burn: An Energy Journal - The Switch

July 7th, 2013: America: Our Country Our Music


June 2nd, 2013: Culture Shock 1913

June 9th, 2013: Intelligence Squared U.S. - The GOP: Seize the Center or Die?

June 16th, 2013: Hidden Kitchens - The Raw & the Cooked

June 23rd, 2013: Invisible Americans - Stories From the New Immigrants

June 30th, 2013: Intelligence Squared U.S. - Is the FDA Hazardous to Our Health?


May 26th, 2013: State of the Re:Union - Coming Home: Stories of Veterans

May 19th, 2013: State of the Re:Union - Dropouts to Graduates

May 12th, 2013: State of the Re:Union - Back to the Basics

May 5th, 2013: Generation Putin


April 7th, 2013: Holocaust Voices (for Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 8th)

April 14th, 2013: Confronting the Warpland: Black Poets of Chicago (for National Poetry Month)

April 21st, 2013: Fresh Greens 2.0 (for Earth Day, April 22nd)

April 28th, 2013: Mapping Eliza: Decoding DNA Secrets (April is th 60th Anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, and the 10th Anniversary of mapping of the human genome; DNA Day is April 25th)


March 31st, 2013: Intelligence Squared U.S.: Does America Need a Stronger Dollar?

March 24th, 2013: The Witches of Lublin (for Passover)

March 17th, 2013: Notes on Spring - A Seasonal Music Special

March 10th, 2013: Intelligence Squared U.S.: Should We Prohibit Genetically-Engineered Babies?

March 3rd, 2013: Her Stories (for Women's History Month)


February 24th: William's Leap for Freedom

February 17th, 2013: The Children of Children Keep Coming

February 10th, 2013: Maya Angelou's Black History Month Special (2013)

February 3rd, 2013: Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Abolitionists


January 27th, 2013: Life in 2030

January 20th, 2013: American RadioWorks - King's Last March (for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

January 13th, 2013: Best of the Best - 2012 Third Coast Festival Broadcast (part 2)

January 6th, 2013: Best of the Best - 2012 Third Coast Festival Broadcast (part 1)


December 30th, 2012: A Season's Griot

December 23rd, 2012: J.R. Sullivan's "Home For the Holidays"

December 16th, 2012: Tinsel Tales: NPR Christmas Favorites

December 9th, 2012: Hanuakkah Lights

December 2nd, 2012:  State of the Re:Union - American Graduate Education Special - Summer in Sanctuary


November 25th, 2012:  State of the Re:Union - East Jackson, Ohio - As Black as We Wish to Be

November 18th, 2012:  State of the Re:Union - Internet Communities - Making the Virtual Real

November 11th, 2012:  State of the Re:Union - Jacksonville, Florida

November 4th, 2012:  State of the Re:Union - Tucson, Arizona


October 28th, 2012:  The New Medicine: Hacking Our Biology

October 21st, 2012:  BURN: The Power and Politics of New Energy Frontiers

October 14th, 2012:  BURN: The Power of One Election and America's Energy Future

October 7th, 2012:  Notes On Autumn - A Seasonal Music Special


September 30th, 2012:  Groundwork - Democracy Close to Home

September 23rd, 2012:  Keyboard College - How Technology is Revolutionizing Higher Education

September 16th, 2012:  The Rise of Phoenix - For Profit Universities Shake Up the Academy

September 9th, 2012:  Grit, Luck and Money - Preparing Kids for College and Getting Them Through

September 2nd, 2012:  Rockford Symphony Orchestra Season Preview


August 26th, 2012:  Highlights from Charlotte's Web's 40th Anniversary Celebration

August 19th, 2012:  Gas Planet: The Impact of the Natural Gas Boom on Climate Change

August 12th, 2012:  Paul Simon: Graceland

August 5th, 2012: Go For It: Life Lessons From Girl Boxers


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