About Us

About Illinois newSroom

Illinois Newsroom is a regional journalism collaboration focused on expanding access to trusted, timely and relevant information across three key statewide topics: Education, Political Impact and Health/Environment.

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, McCormick Foundation and the partner stations, our team of journalists report on the issues that affect the diverse residents of Illinois with the goals of holding public officials accountable; fostering greater understanding of our state and region; and exploring the many ways people are working together to strengthen their communities.

Through online and in-person conversations and events, Illinois Newsroom invites the audiences we serve into the editorial process, connecting and empowering communities across the state.

Partners –
NPR Illinois, Springfield;
 WSIU, Carbondale; WVIK, Rock Island; TriStates Public Radio, Macomb; WTVP, Peoria; Illinois Public Media, Champaign-Urbana; Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting; Harvest Public Media; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; McCormick Foundation

Lee Gaines

Education Reporter

Lee V. Gaines is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, Crain’sthe Pacific Standard and the Marshall Project. She also recently completed a fellowship with Chicago non-profit journalism lab, City Bureau. 

Lee has more than six years of experience producing breaking news, magazine-length feature stories and investigative reports on subjects including education, the medical marijuana industry, criminal justice reform, social justice, local and regional politics, in addition to stories about Chicago’s thriving music and arts scene. 

A Rhode Island native, Lee began her career as a staff reporter for GateHouse Media New England covering the Boston suburbs.

Madelyn Beck

Health & Environment Reporter

Madelyn Beck reports on agriculture, environment and health out of her Galesburg office. She also contributes to Harvest Public Media, WVIK and TriStates Public Radio.

She is from Montana, but has reported everywhere from Alaska to Washington, D.C. Most recently, she was the Wyoming reporter for public media collaboration Inside Energy. There, she reported on regional and national energy issues for radio stations around the West.

Past publications include the Idaho Mountain Express, E&E News/EnergyWire, KRBD Rainbird Radio, the Montana Broadcaster’s Association, Montana Public Radio, and the Tioga Tribune.

Steph Whiteside

Health & Environment Reporter​

Steph is new to the midwest. Originally from North Carolina, Steph has previously lived in Washington DC and Northern California, where she reported on a wide variety of issues including health, politics, and women’s issues. She also has a background in social media and audience engagement.

She previously worked for AJ+ and Current TV.

Rachel Otwell

Education Reporter

Rachel has tutored Rwandan refugees, been an activities assistant at a nursing home, and volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage as well as an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

She’s a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield. She also holds degrees in Women & Gender and African-American Studies.

Her public radio career began with an internship at NPR for the program Tell Me More with Michel Martin. Her reports have aired nationally and are regularly heard on public radio stations across Illinois. She lives in Springfield with her family where they are active in the local arts scene.

Mary Hansen

Political Reporter​

Mary reports on the many ways politics affects communities across Illinois. She graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she spent a legislative session covering statehouse news for The Daily Herald. Previously, Mary reported for The State Journal-Register, covering city government. She received her BA in International Studies from American University.

Kristin Walters​

Engagement Strategist​

As Engagement Strategist, Kristin spearheads the integration of engagement and editorial processes to maximize the reach of our reporting and its positive community impact.

She builds pathways for Illinois citizens and organizations to participate in the editorial process through events, educational initiatives, community partnerships, and everyday conversations. From her perspective, there are no greater experts on the issues of Illinois than the state’s diverse, industrious, and passionate citizens.

Lee Gaines

Education Reporter

Lee has more than six years of experience producing breaking news, magazine-length feature stories and investigative reports on subjects including education, the medical marijuana industry, criminal justice reform, social justice, local and regional politics.

Rachel Otwell

EDUCATION REPORTER

Rachel has tutored Rwandan refugees, been an activities assistant at a nursing home, and volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage as well as an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

She’s a graduate of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield. She also holds degrees in Women & Gender and African-American Studies.

Her public radio career began with an internship at NPR for the program Tell Me More with Michel Martin. Her reports have aired nationally and are regularly heard on public radio stations across Illinois. She lives in Springfield with her family where they are active in the local arts scene.

Kristin Walters

Engagement Strategist

As Engagement Strategist, Kristin spearheads the integration of engagement and editorial processes to maximize the reach of our reporting and its positive community impact.

Madelyn Beck

HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT REPORTER​

Madelyn Beck reports on agriculture, environment and health out of her Galesburg office. She also contributes to Harvest Public Media, WVIK and TriStates Public Radio.

 

Mary Hansen

Political Reporter

Mary reports on the many ways politics affects communities across Illinois. She graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she spent a legislative session covering statehouse news for The Daily Herald. Previously, Mary reported for The State Journal-Register, covering city government. She received her BA in International Studies from American University

Steph Whiteside

Health & Environment Reporter​

Steph is new to the midwest. Originally from North Carolina, Steph has previously lived in Washington DC and Northern California, where she reported on a wide variety of issues including health, politics, and women’s issues. She also has a background in social media and audience engagement.

She previously worked for AJ+ and Current TV.