WSIU InFocus

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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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It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with SIU Journalism Ethics Professor Bill Babcock, who was International Editor and Asia Editor for the Christian Science Monitor during the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. Babcock sees similarities between that incident, and the tensions building in Hong Kong today.

A few years ago, when he was going to Yorkville High School, Matt Pitstick saw college recruiters roaming his school who surprised him and made his friends laugh. They were recruiters from a university more than 700 miles away: the University of Alabama.

Destini Hutson spent much of her childhood picturing what life would be like when her dad came home.

Over time, her plans turned to the practical: teach him how to use an iPhone, help him find a job, go to Chick-fil-A together.

“‘It’s a lot that you’re going to have to learn,’” Hutson told her dad, Donald, who went to prison in 1997 when she was still a baby.

Those plans came to a halt last September, when Donald Hutson died of a drug overdose at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific. He’s one of more than 430 inmates who have overdosed in state prisons since May 2017, according to internal data from the Missouri Department of Corrections. While there are many ways drugs are smuggled into prisons, DOC employees say internal corruption is a key part of the problem.

Dianne Gordon, a mom who lives in Champaign, knew something was wrong with her daughter Rory the minute she stepped off the school bus one afternoon in April. 

Governor J.B. Pritzker signed SB 1952 this month, eliminating a test of basic skills for potential teachers in Illinois. WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talked with SIUC's Director of Teacher Preparation Nancy Mundschenk about what impact this new law will have:

The conversation continued, into Part 2:


WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Interim SIUC Chancellor John Dunn about the upcoming 2019 Fall Semester, new Nursing Program, and more.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry about the impact of SIUC's students returning for the Fall 2019 semester, and previews a joint meeting between the Carbondale City Council and Carbondale Park District regarding a potential merger.

Bouncing on a purple exercise ball, Alyssa talks to her new teacher about what classes she needs to graduate. 
"There’s a Psychology 1 as an elective, I would take that, but I already took psychology and sociology... And I feel like Heartland in general is a psychology class," she says, laughing.

Sci-fi writers have long warned about the dangers of modifying organisms. They come in forms ranging from accidentally creating a plague of killer locusts (1957) to recreating dinosaurs with added frog genes (2015).

Now, with researchers looking to even more advanced gene-editing technology to protect crops, they’ll have to think about how to present that tech to a long-skeptical public. 

For over a year, southern Illinois stakeholders spearheaded by SIU Carbondale's Innovation and Economic Development and State Senator Paul Schimpf, have been gathering input and compiling a study highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Randolph County, and Perry County's Pyramid State Recreation Area.


WSIU's Kevin Boucher talks with SIUC MFA Student Lauren Stoelzle, a contributing filmmaker in "HOOPS."

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute's John Jackson about "The Simon Review: The Climate of Opinion in Illinois 2008-2019: Gridlock Broken?" to get his take on what's changed, and what remains the same.

With Water Slowly Receding, What Comes Next?

Jul 30, 2019
WSIU Radio

On this edition of WSIU InFocus, we hear from some soil experts and a local farmer about the impact of the floodwaters in southern Illinois.

In late March, a child welfare worker visited the family home of 9-year-old Byron Casanova in Johnston City, Illinois. The social worker expressed concerns about the environment but Byron and his three siblings weren’t removed from the home. Four days later, Byron Casanova committed suicide.  

“The Intact worker was there the Tuesday before, noted some things in the house and said he was concerned about the current cleanliness of the house,” said Johnston City Police Chief William Stark.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with State Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) about the 2nd Annual Southern Illinois Made Expo, hosted in Marion July 27-28.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Author Jeremy Finley about his book, The Dark Above.

Six new casinos are planned for Illinois. Lawmakers expect hefty tax revenue, but the casinos also raise the risk of problem gambling. 

The Caretaking Of Life

Jul 22, 2019
Amelia Blakely

Caretaking of passing loved ones can be a stressful journey with a dim light at the end of the tunnel. 

Kris Juul, a  World War II veteran and Southern Illinois University Professor at Carbondale, helps his family take care of his final moments with the story of his past and present life. 

Visual adapation: Part 1


WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Interim SIUC Chancellor John Dunn.

Partnership Brings The Stars To The People

Jul 15, 2019
WSIU/Kevin Boucher

Thanks to a generous donation from the Astronomical Association of Southern Illinois, two southern Illinois Libraries have brand new telescopes, for the public to learn about the planets and stars.

The Importance of Pollinators

Jul 12, 2019
WSIU/Kevin Boucher

On this edition of WSIU InFocus, we visit a southern Illinois farm that has eight acres planted in native plants to provide much-needed food for a group of insects and mammals, known as pollinators.

Local Food Growers Receive Help

Jul 10, 2019
Glaciersend Website.

June was a tough month for farmers and smaller growers in southern Illinois.

However, in between the rain showers, a beam of good news arrived in the form of a

$10,000 grant from the non-profit Faith In Place group, and the Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers, or LEAF.

People have been leaving rural midwestern areas for decades. And it’s not just population loss. Often fresh food sellers move away too. There might be hope, though.

SIU's Field School Unearths Forgotten History

Jul 9, 2019
Amelia Blakely

WSIU's Amelia Blakely reports from Southern Illinois Univesrity Carbondale's field school at Fort Kaskaskia near Chester, Illinois. This is the third year the six-week field school has taken place. The school is ran by SIU's Center for Archeological Investigations and led by SIUC Anthropology Professor Mark Wagner. 

Midwestern fish farmers grow a variety of species, such as tilapia, salmon, barramundi and shrimp, all of which require a high-protein diet. The region grows copious amounts of soybeans, which have a lot of protein, but these two facts have yet to converge.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is cosponsoring legislation that would rollback one of the provisions of the 1994 crime bill. It’s called the Restoring Education and Learning Act— or REAL Act. The bill would restore Pell Grant eligibility to people incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

Carbondale, Park District Merger Study Underway

Jul 2, 2019
Courtesy of the Carbondale Park District.

In the April municipal elections, voters in Carbondale by a wide margin chose to further study the merging of the Carbondale Park District with the City of Carbondale.

WSIU's Jennifer Fuller talks with Jane Otte, the Faith Lead for Moms Demand Action Southern Illinois, about their upcoming community safety fair in Marion.