WSIU InFocus

  • Hosted by WSIU News Team

WSIU takes a closer look at issues around the region. From arts and entertainment, to science and nature, the environment, politics, and other topics people are talking about.

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The federal government recently raised the smoking age to 21 to help curb teen vaping.  Some are applauding the decision as a win for public health. Others worry it was a knee-jerk reaction.

Just a few weeks ago, some Midwest state legislatures were aiming to raise the legal age for smoking. But Congress moved first, setting a new national age limit of 21. Now, some anti-smoking advocates say that’s not enough. 

Mike Baltz: Looking Back and Forward at Earth Day

Jan 13, 2020
WSIU Kevin Boucher

Ornithologist Dr. Mike Baltz begins 2020 with the first in another series of original nature commentaries.

Politics, television, and social media were once again rich sources for abuse of the English language during the past year. And they're the main contributors to the latest list of words and phrases, "Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness.

Ed Benyas
SI Music Festival

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Southern Illinois Symphony Music Director and Southern Illinois Music Festival Artistic Director Ed Benyas about Lionel Semiatin's American Symphony being honored at the national level.

You can watch the performances of American Symphony below:

Why This Free Health Clinic Is Pushing To Expand Medicaid

Jan 8, 2020

On a chilly afternoon, Terry Cox has come to Mountain View, Mo., to see a dentist. He’s waiting on a bench outside a converted rectory.

“Came to get a tooth check and see what they got to do to it," Cox says. "Maybe get ‘em all out.”

The 56-year-old works in northern Arkansas, and drove an hour and a half to the Good Samaritan Care Clinic.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry.

In this InFocus episode:

  • Discussion of economic impact of Macy's closure
  • Potential opportunities in University Mall and elsewhere
  • Next steps for Carbonale, as Illinois' legal marijuana law takes effect

Across the country, nearly 95,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant. And the list has been growing for years. That's pushed some people to try unusual ways to find donors.

SIU Team Documents New Life Form

Jan 2, 2020

A new form of bacterial life has been discovered by a team of SIU Carbondale researchers, led by Microbiology Assistant Professor, Dr. Scott Hamilton-Brehm.

photo of book cover of Simple Abundance

As we start a new year and a new decade, author and columnist Sarah Ban Breathnach is out with a revised 25th anniversary edition of her iconic book Simple Abundance and its companion, The Journal of Gratitude.  

For this edition of In The Author's Voice, WSIU's Jeff Williams recently talked with Ban Breathnach about the book and introducing it to a new generation.

SIU School of Medicine

Alzheimer's affects more than five million Americans, but the disease is still a mystery to scientists and doctors. Some patients and caregivers are hoping to help change that by joining clinical trials.

Bob Scott is a patient at the Alzheimer’s Center at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. His wife, Janet, is his caregiver, and is helping Bob as he takes part in a clinical trial for a new drug.

Across the United States, Alzheimer's is a growing problem. The number of people with the disease is expected to increase nearly 15 percent over the next eight years. There’s no cure, but some caregivers are using music to help. 

A Conversation On Doctors in Rural Illinois In the 1940s

Dec 27, 2019

Harold Bardo grew up in Sparta, Illinois. He later moved to Carbondale working at SIU in several different roles. In March, StoryCorps came to Carbondale to speak with Southern Illinoisans about their lives.

Harold and his wife Lana, talked about growing up in rural Illinois as African-Americans in a time when segregation still ruled much of America.

Read the transcript:


Rachel Keener first began using opioids as a teenager. As an adult she was being treated with subutex when she became pregnant.

In March of 2019 StoryCorps visited Carbondale to record interviews with Southern Illinois. Rachel sat down with her doctor, Jeff Ripperda with Shawnee Health Service to talk about her fears and experience giving birth while undergoing medication assisted treatment for opioid use. 

Read the full transcript:

Local Teacher Makes Arts Education His Mission

Dec 24, 2019

Art programs are often the first thing to go when budget cuts hit.  Illinois in particular  falls short when it comes to art programs -  only 63% of schools have it, compared to the 90%. nationwide. 

During 2019, the curveballs thrown at farmers began with the partial government shutdown in January, when some U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies were closed. Spring brought a storm system—called a bomb cyclone—that dumped rain on top of frozen fields unable to make use of it, kicking off weeks of flooding exacerbated by additional precipitation. Planting ran later than usual and some farmers never got a cash crop into certain saturated fields.

Middle schoolers from Loves Park were chosen to create the ornament representing Illinois for the National Christmas Tree Celebration in Washington D.C.

The two dozen Harlem Middle School art students worked on 24 ornaments for more than a month in secret. The National Parks Service didn’t let the kids say anything about their project until the official announcement.

There are just weeks left until adult-use recreational cannabis becomes legal in Illinois. While many consumers have been looking forward to that day since lawmakers passed the legislation in May, cultivators have been scrambling to prepare for the demand.

WCBU’s Dana Vollmer visited one central Illinois producer to see how preparation efforts are going.

What To Know About Recreational Cannabis On Campus

Dec 18, 2019

On a recent Thursday, a small group of Northern Illinois University students took their seats at an open forum to discuss recreational cannabis. It will be legal in Illinois soon.

Administrators wanted to make one thing clear: marijuana will still be banned on NIU’s campus.

That’s mostly because of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.    

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees deadlocked on appointing Dr. Martin Abraham as the university's 12th president. The vote came after the board held a five hour executive session Thursday night and met behind closed doors for more than an hour Friday morning. 

What's Next for Carbondale's Iconic "Strip"?

Dec 16, 2019
Jacob Gordon/WSIU

WSIU's Jacob Gordon explores the past, present, and future for South Illinois Avenue in Carbondale, known as "The Strip."

Watch Jacob's story here:

In many Midwest states it’s illegal for someone with HIV to have sex without telling partners about the illness. Some public health experts are pushing to change those laws.

Brad Palmer, WSIU Radio

In a follow-up to a report last month on a Re-Entry Summit at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center, WSIU's Brad Palmer takes us inside the Murphysboro Life Skills Re-Entry Center, where inmates receive vocational training for life on the outside.

It’s open enrollment season for the health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act. But many people who need to sign up may not know it. The Trump administration has made a number of moves to diminish the law, including cuts to marketing and outreach. That creates obstacles for groups that help people sign up. 

High school students through the decades have sweated over the college admissions tests, the ACT and the SAT.  Now, more and more schools are not requiring applicants to take the standardized tests.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with incoming SIU President Dan Mahony. 

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with the SIU Board of Trustees' 2019 Diversity Lecturer, Charles Neblett.

In the fall, livestock veterinarian Dr. Bailey Lammers is often busy with vaccinating calves and helping wean them from their mothers.

A herd of auburn cattle greeted her at the barn gate during one of her house calls in northeastern Nebraska, peering from behind the dirt-caked bars. Lammers and her technician Sadie Kalin pulled equipment from tackleboxes in the back of Lammers’ truck.  

Carbondale / Carbondale

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry and Public Information Officer Roni LaForge about new developments in Amtrak's on-time record, the city's new warming center, and upcoming events.

Blessings in Johnson County

Dec 2, 2019
Amelia Blakely

This story was aired on November 29, 2019. 

More than 10% of Johnson County's 12, 899 residents are food insecure, according to Map the Meal Gap 2019 study by Feeding America, a national non-profit organization made of networks of food banks. 

Local residents saw the growing need and are independently organizing to make sure their most vulnerable neighbors are being fed.  

Brenda Kreuter of Vienna, Illinois is the organizer of the two Blessing Boxes in the city which is open to anyone who needs extra food but don't have money to buy it.