WILL-AM 580 News Features


News feature reports from Illinois Public Media News, the top radio news team in Central Illinois.

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Report Looks At LGBT Equality In Cities

Same sex marriage took effect in Illinois in 2014, and while our state has joined the ranks of others that offer an increased amount of rights and protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, cities differ in laws and policies that promote equality.   A report that was released a few weeks ago looked at cities from around the country - seven of which are in Illinois. Of those seven cities, Chicago has the highest possible score (100), but even the lowest, Rockford, is near the national average of 59.  Champaign is also on the list with a ranking of 70. The Human Rights Campaign's Cathryn Oakley authored the report - called the Municipal Equality Index.   She spoke with Illinois Public Radio's Rachel Otwell.

Hear The Sounds Of 2014 In Illinois Politics

Brian Mackie compiled this audio montage for Illinois Public Radio, of some of the voices that made news in Illinois politics in 2014. Most of the action was in the campaign for governor ... in which Bruce Rauner became the first Republican to win that office since the late 1990's. But you'll also hear the voices of Rauner's GOP primary rivals including Bill Brady and Dan Rutherford, Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and the late state comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka.

Interview with PBS “Masterpiece” Producer Rebecca Eaton

Inspector Morse to Sherlock - and Brideshead to Downton - for many PBS fans, Sunday night is appointment viewing. It all started in 1971… and has evolved to include the likes of Downton Abbey and Sherlock, as well as the “Mystery!” series.  She’s written a new memoir:  “Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery!” on PBS Illinois Public Radio’s Brian O’Keefe spoke recently with Rebecca Eaton…the woman behind all those Masterpieces.

50 Years Of Rankin-Bass’ Rudolph

This month saw the return of a holiday television tradition: The Rankin-Bass Production of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. Rick Goldschmidt serves as the official Rankin-Bass historian. He lives in the Chicago suburbs, and told Illinois Public Radio's Brian O'Keefe some of the secrets to the success of shows like Rudolph, Frosty and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Proposed Eavesdropping Law Allows Recording Police (Contrary To Internet Rumors)

Nine months after the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s eavesdropping law, the legislature passed a bill to replace it. The legislation, which defines eavesdropping and its consequences, is currently waiting on the governor's desk. Already, the proposed law faces criticism, and a flurry of misinformation.  Here's a sampling of some headlines from around the web: "Illinois Passes Bill That Makes It Illegal To Record The Police" "Illinois law would make recording the police a felony" Even this University of Illinois police officer was a bit confused, as heard in this video posted on YouTube last week. Eventually, the officer allowed the driver, who goes by Michael Kwan on YouTube, to record him. Technically, Kwan is correct. According to federal courts, anyone can record police officers in a public space. But prior to March, Illinois had been one of only a few states that didn't allow people to record cops. State senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) says the misinformation surrounding the new legislation has been dizzying. Raoul was one of the driving forces behind the bill. "That's the irony of this," he said. "What everybody's being outraged about, they should've been outraged about for years." Champaign resident Martel Miller was one of those outraged about the law years ago. Miller was arrested in 2004 for recording police officers. Miller had begun recording traffic stops after he formed a mentoring program to help at-risk kids. "And we started talking to them and they said they didn't need a tutoring program, they needed help with the police," he said. Miller says the kids told him what he'd experienced himself--racial profiling by cops. He says the most obvious sign of that is the number of times African American drivers are pulled over, and how officers treat them at those traffic stops. So Miller started recording. Every time he'd come across a traffic stop, Miller says he'd record. Sometimes, people would call him to tell him they were pulled over, and he'd show up with his camera. Local police got to know Miller fairly well during that time. He says cops warned him about recording them, but he says he took care to stand and record from a distance where he couldn't pick up their voices. Until one night, when he was recording a traffic stop from across the street, and officers approached him. "He said, ‘Officer said you taped his voice without his permission.’ I said, ‘You talking about when I’m taping across the street?’ I said, ‘No, I can’t get their voices from across the street.’” Turns out Miller had earlier picked up the voice of an officer that had yelled closer to him. So Miller was charged with eavesdropping on law enforcement, then a Class 1 felony. Miller's charges were eventually dropped, and he says he kept recording police. "I try to figure out what's the reason police do not want to be filmed in public?" he said. "You're out there doing work, you should want to be filmed and make sure it’s right." But the keyword here is "public." Under the new legislation, state senator Raoul says anyone is free to record an officer when there's no reasonable expectation of privacy... in public, in a car, even in your own home, if a police officer comes to search. Critics say this "reasonable expectation of privacy" standard is too broad, and could potentially deter citizens from recording police at all. But Raoul says it was left broad on purpose. “Sometimes when you list some, by implication some may interpret that the ones that you don’t list are not covered,” he said. What's still not allowed is surreptitiously recording law enforcement on the job if they're in their office, wiretapping their phones, hacking email, etc. Senator Raoul says that's because that recording puts police investigations at risk. But even that crime would only be a class 3 felony, down from a class one. (Eavesdropping on regular citizens, by the way, would be a class four felony, which carries a lighter penalty). Ironically, the whole reason Illinois' high court struck down the original eavesdropping law was *because* the law didn't allow citizens to record police. But this new legislation leaves out key goals that Senator Raoul says he wants to pass fairly soon...chief among them, a law for police body cameras...a hot topic since August, when an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri...with no video of the interaction. Proponents of body cams say the knowledge that exchanges are being recorded will keep both police and citizens accountable for their actions. Raoul says the sooner the state implements body cams, the better. "That’s something that we want to take on right away,” he said. Outgoing governor Pat Quinn has three weeks left in his term to take action on the bill.

Focus Encore: Why give gifts?

There’s a lot of forethought, and sometimes a lot of stress, that’s a part of the holiday season. That’s completely counter-intuitive considering the holidays are supposed to be a time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. During this encore hour on Focus, we talked about why certain expectations are attached to the holidays and what we can do about it. For the first half of the hour, host Jim Meadows talks with University of Illinois Professor Harry Liebersohn, about the reasons we give gifts. He does research in Europe and says even though the act of giving a gift implies the same thing everywhere, traditions surrounding gift giving vary widely from culture to culture. He’ll also tell us about how the definition of what a gift is has evolved over time. Then, on the second half of this hour on Focus, Susan Salterburg of the University of Northern Iowa joins the show. She’s a part of an outreach program called “Reclaim Your Holidays,” that’s trying to spread the message that simplifying the holidays and giving fewer gifts is not only 100% acceptable but also more environmentally friendly.

Jeff Perkins On Launching The ‘Conversation On Race’

In 2008, Jeff Perkins started what is now an annual event in Decatur – called the Conversation on Race. After years of working to overcome discrimination, he set out to create what he calls an honest conversation about race relations that leaves people – black and white -- feeling “constructively uncomfortable." Perkins served for a time as the head of the NAACP in Decatur and went on to found the mentoring program called Caring Black Men of Decatur. In an interview with WILL-TV's David Inge, Perkins talks about why he launched the Conversation on Race, and the changes he's seen in attitudes over the years. You can watch the full interview Thursday night at 7:30 on WILL-TV.

Champaign County NAACP Pres. Avery On Police & African-American Relations

Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery talks about her goals for improvements in relations between African-Americans and local police. Avery, who is also executive director of the Champaign-Urbana Area Project, says she was deeply upset by the two recent grand jury decisions related to the shootings of unarmed African-Americans by police in New York City and Ferguson Missouri. In an interview with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows, Avery says that locally, relations between police and the African-American community have improved in the five years since a black teen-ager, Kiwane Carrington, was killed in an altercation with a Champaign police officer. But she says there’s more to be done.

Two More Grammy Noms For Champaign Record Label

A local record label known for archival work will again be at the Grammys.  'Isham Jones: Happy', on Archeophone Records, reissues 1920 recordings of a saxophonist and Chicago band leader. Jones was best known for writing ‘It Had To Be You’ in 1924.  But Archeophone co-owner Richard Martin said their goal is seek out earlier, underrepresented material from the teens and early 20’s.  “So in the case of Isham Jones, here is a band leader who is one of the most important figures in the development of the American dance band sound," he said.  "He’s celebrated from his hot jazz sides from the 1930’s – but he started in 1920.” Martin and his wife and label co-owner, Meagan Hennessey learned Friday they’d been nominated for two Grammys - Best Historical Album, and colleague David Sager for Best Album Notes.  "(Jones) wrote hundreds of songs, and maybe 30 of them were hits," said Sager.  "Jones said that it was just dance music.  And he was very clear, saying jazz is not necessary dance music.  All jazz is dance music, but not all dance music is jazz, and I think he understood what good, hot playing was about and incorporated it in his ensemble, but it was never considered a jazz ensemble." Martin and Hennessey said there was a specific character to Jones’ sound in Chicago clubs. "If you compare his arrangements with other people’s, his records sound very much ahead of their time," said Martin.  "They don’t sound like the other dance band orchestras recorded contemporarily.  And they don’t sound like his hot jazz.  It’s a very different feel." "There are no lead vocals," said Hennessey.  "No lead coronet or trumpet – that’s the hallmark of jazz that emerges.” These two nominations mean Archeophone and their collaborators have picked up 11 of them total – their one Grammy win was in 2006, a Best Historical Album award for “Lost Sounds – Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry.”  The Grammys will be handed out February 8th in Los Angeles. 

Operations Underway On Oil Pipeline Through Illinois

The Keystone XL is a controversial pipeline that would bring oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to US refineries. But plans for a similar pipeline that runs through Illinois are quietly moving ahead. It was expected to start full operations this week.  So how did the Flanagan South pipeline largely escape scrutiny and what does it mean for our region? For member station WBEZ's Front and Center, Shannon Heffernan reports. Front and Center is funded by the Joyce Foundation, Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.

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