WNIU awaits move to new building

By Fred Heuschel

WNIU is waiting to move into a new auxiliary station in Rockford.

The station will house the Northern Illinois Radio Information Service (NIRIS), a radio channel for the blind, WNIU General Manager Michael Lazar said. The station also will be the base for WNIU’s Rockford news reporting, he said.

“Area newspapers and books are read over the air for the benefit of the visually impaired,” Lazar said.

WNIU will still have NIRIS staff working out of DeKalb, but the majority of the operation will be based in Rockford once the new facility is renovated, Lazar said.

NIRIS Director Donna Brooks said the building should be renovated by Nov. 8, “although we don’t know exactly when we’ll be moving in.”

The facility will also be beneficial to the news department at WNIU, Lazar said. “It used to be that our reporters had to commute between DeKalb and Rockford. This is detrimental to getting the news out expediently. It’s also a real chore for our reporters,” Lazar said.

“With the new auxiliary facility we can have reporters who live and work solely in the Rockford area. This will greatly reduce our travel expenditures and it will enable us to do more live reports and interviews in Rockford,” Lazar said.

The building is being renovated and funded by a group of Rockford business leaders in conjuction with the Rockford Park District, Lazar said.

WNIU will share the 130,000 square-foot building with the Rockford Art Museum, dance company, Discovery Center, symphony and the Storefront Cinema, Lazar said. WNIU will occupy 4,000 square feet, he said.

“Eventually we will become a part of the park district. Timing was everything in this matter. We’ve always had a small office in Rockford and we’ve made numerous attempts to get this set-up,” Lazar said.

The new outlet will enhance development and business for the station, Lazar said. “It should work out well,” he said.