By Melanie Cain
For thirty years now, public radio station WUIS and Illinois Issues magazine have been excellent sources of public affairs information for residents of central Illinois. WUIS signed on the air on January 3, 1975, as WSSR 91.9 FM. Illinois Issues released its very first issue that same month. Last Thursday, February 24, these two entities commemorated their anniversaries with a joint celebration at the Executive Mansion in Springfield.
The main focus for WUIS has always been news and cultural programming, and their mission is to provide local information, music programming, and coverage of government news statewide. Known as the hub of the Illinois Public Radio Network, the station is a member of National Public Radio and Public Radio International.
Illinois Issues, a monthly, not-for-profit publication of UIS, has a mission to provide analyses of public policies in the state. The magazine pays particular attention to Illinois government, politics, current trends, legislative issues, and the state’s quality of life.
Both WUIS and Issues are units within the Center for State Policy and Leadership at UIS.
The anniversary celebration started out with a reception, complete with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and a string ensemble playing in the background. During the reception, people were able to mingle and catch up on old times. Various displays showcased WUIS and Illinois Issues with pictures, articles, and other pieces of memorabilia highlighting their history, achievements, and staff.
After the reception, the crowd gathered in the banquet room to begin the evening’s program. After Chancellor Ringeisen welcomed the audience, Barbara Ferrara, CSPL interim executive director, gave opening remarks in which she discussed the significance that the station and the magazine have in society and how they tie politics and culture together. She then introduced the master of ceremonies, J. Michael Lennon, who is emeritus vice president for academic affairs at Wilkes University and former publisher of Illinois Issues.
The main topic for the evening was “Reflecting on the past and looking to the future of public affairs reporting at the University of Illinois at Springfield” and the speakers were Kevin Klose and Mike Lawrence. Klose, president and chief executive officer of NPR, spoke of the importance of broadcast journalism in society today and encouraged everyone to let their elected officials know they support public radio.
Lawrence is director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU in Carbondale and a frequent contributor to Illinois Issues. He pointed out how much journalism reporting has changed over the past thirty years, saying there is now less focus on local issues. This, said Lawrence, makes publications like Issues that much more important today.
After the formal presentation, several former employees shared thoughts and stories about the station and the magazine. They spoke fondly of their experiences and expressed how much being a part of these programs meant to them.
Closing remarks were made by Peggy Boyer Long, executive editor of Illinois Issues, and Rich Bradley, interim general manager of WUIS.
To learn more about WUIS or Illinois Issues, you can visit their websites at www.wuis.org