Peter Gray

Harvest Desk Reporter

Peter has a diverse background in public, independent and commercial media production.  Beginning in 2011, Peter served as reporter and “Morning Edition” host for WUIS.  He completed his work at WUIS in 2014.  Prior to his start in public radio, he covered the Illinois legislature for NBC affiliate WANDTV-17 and helped launch Phenom Features, a non-profit apprenticeship film studio.  Peter hails from Oswego, Ill., where he grew up watching WTTW-11/PBS.  

Ways To Connect

Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Dept. of Natural Resources employees have discussed adding cougars to the list of protected species in Illinois.

But in a phone interview with WUIS, IDNR spokesman Tim Schweizer said currently "it’s up to the landowner” to decide whether a potentially threatening animal should be put down.  

That's what transpired Wednesday near Morrison, Ill., when a woman and her husband reportedly spotted the large male cougar hiding under their corn crib and asked Conservation Police to dispatch the cat.

Peter Gray/WUIS

This Thanksgiving, hungry families all over the country will finish off their holiday meal with a little slice of the Midwest. That’s because the vast majority of all pumpkin that comes from a can and winds up in a pie got its start on a vine in Illinois.

Pumpkin patches are popular destinations for families seeking fall fun, and you’ll find roadside farm stands all over the country. But this is big business in Illinois, where farmers feed canning factories hungry for a special kind of pumpkin that looks nothing like those you see on Halloween.


Data collected between 2010 and 2012 indicate Illinois' nonmetro areas had the second highest losses of jobs in the nation.

The state of Arizona also saw a 1.8 percent decline in rural employment over the past two years, while losses were especially large in Arkansas - down 4.1 percent.  

Cheryl Gray

I come to Harvest Public Media as a reporter standing at the intersection of rural and urban life.  It is a fascinating place to be in the young 21st century.

Growing up in Oswego, Ill., I watched my backyard turn from cornfield to the carefully trimmed suburban lawns of Chicagoland’s residential expansion. The land my Norwegian immigrant great-grandparents tilled in the 1900s is likely a restaurant, big box retail store or strip mall today.

Springfield shoppers who connect with local growers each summer at the Old Capitol Farmer's Market have stocked up for the cold months ahead. 

In these Oct. 26 interviews, Peter Gray caught up with a few vendors at the last Saturday market downtown to hear their thoughts on the summer harvest.

INTERVIEWS from the Old Capitol Farmer's Market:

UPDATE (Nov. 8)

The following is from the Central Illinois Foodbank:

The Springfield Rotary Club is working toward a goal of 2,000 pounds of citrus to be donated to Central Illinois Foodbank. The club currently is about half way to their goal and hopes the community will help them double their current total.

Dr. Dohner Fan Page/Facebook

Dr. Russell Dohner of Rushville is among the latest inductees to the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior Hall of Fame

The 88-year-old physician has treated patients in west central Illinois since 1955.  He still makes house calls, patient rounds at the local hospital and nursing home, and is known to charge patients only $5.00 for the entire cost of visits. Dohner served as the 2013 Illinois State Fair Parade Grand Marshal.

From the Dept. on Aging: 


The State Journal-Register's Tim Landis talks with Peter Gray about the state's latest work to prepare rail lines near Springfield for higher speed trains, new renderings for residential re-development and progress for retail on the south end of town.

Read the latest business stories in the SJ-R.

Coaches in Illinois are required by state law to remove from a game or practice any athlete suspected of suffering a concussion.

But responding quickly after a hard hit isn't enough for a former football player from the Chicago area who now advocates nationwide to prevent injury to still-developing brains.

In the latest report from the WUIS Health Desk, Peter Gray reports on a push for Illinois to follow the NFL and other states in limiting days of full contact football practice.

Random House Publishing

The University of Illinois Springfield One Book reading program last fall put the tale of Indian slum dwellers in the hands of students, staff, faculty and community members.

Katherine Boo is the author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

"I hope that when you read a book like this, you're not seeing the people of Annawadi as some remote 'other', but that you're recognizing how much people have in common... there's so much human 'connective tissue' in this world." - Katherine Boo

City of Springfield

Mike Houston says the court system doesn't appreciate when cases are "tried in public", and Springfield's mayor suggests "unethical" leaks of sworn testimony to the media are doing that by "coloring the situation".

The situation is the ongoing lawsuit filed by local newspaper columnist Calvin Christian, which claims the city destroyed dozens of documents he was seeking through the Freedom of Information Act.

Village of Chatham

Chatham's mayor stands behind the village's choice to stop buying water from Springfield's public utility.

Along with New Berlin, Chatham is a customer of the South Sangamon Water Commission, established so the villages could avoid rate hikes from City, Water, Light and Power.  

Thanks to donations from the community, the Hoogland Center for the Arts in 2012 dodged foreclosure and landed on firmer financial ground.  

That means the staff can now plan longer term.  Executive Director Gus Gordon says he's now selling full season ticket packages for the very first time.

Residents of Springfield can provide input online as District 186 continues a search for its next leader.

School Exec Connect, the firm hired to help with the superintendent search,  has set up a web-based survey which asks about leadership qualities and goals that are a priority for the community.

School board member Scott McFarland says the survey is an opportunity to get feedback from those who weren't able to attend community meetings this summer. 

Dynamic Patterns Theatre/Donna Lounsberry

Matthew Dearing says theatregoers don't need to study Quantum Electrodynamics in order to enjoy a show about the man behind the theory.

Dearing is directing QED: A Play, which stars Decatur actor Al Scheider as theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.  Feynman helped develop the atomic bomb.  He also gained notoriety in the 1980s as a member of the panel that investigated NASA after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Russian president Vladimir Putin this week makes a rare appearance on page 31 of the New York Times.  

In his Thursday morning op-ed (click here to read), Putin makes an appeal to the U.S. to be "cautious" in the coming weeks as Congress considers military action against Syria.

Peter Gray/WUIS

The Lincoln Land Community College Foundation has launched a $2.5 million fundraising campaign following an increase of requests from students needing support for costs associated with college.

Any interest the endowment fund generates will go toward scholarships for students and other campus priorities.

LLCC Foundation Director Karen Sanders says she wants the campaign to reach its goal by the 50 year anniversary of the college, May 2017.

(CLICK HERE to learn more about the campaign)

Peter Gray/WUIS

Two Chatham teens are in custody for allegedly impersonating police earlier this week.

Sangamon County deputies arrested Thomas Orme and Christopher Morthland about 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon. 

In a news release Friday morning, Undersheriff Jack Campbell says Orme and Morthland are suspected of having used a cellphone app that mimics flashing police lights and sirens to pull over several drivers near Curran.  

Chatham Police helped deputies identify the teens.

Audiences at The Muni shouldn't worry about being presented with a watered-down version of RENT.  

Director Mac Warren says he's "staying true" to a show that some theaters edit for language and content.  

RENT's themes, some unabashedly adult, are arguably just as relevant as they were in the mid-90s when the show debuted in New York.

Actors Scott Lecocq and Jeremy Goeckner joined the show's director on Illinois Edition to share their take on a show they say has "finally come home" to the Springfield Muni:

Peter Gray/WUIS

The flow of traffic in Springfield could change dramatically in the coming decade.

Transportation planners seeking to re-route trains recently scored a major victory in the fight for funding.

The federal government announced August 30th a $14.4M grant to help pay for the first of several construction projects along 10th Street.  Crews could begin work by summer 2014, but design work must be completed first. 

City of Springfield

The city of Springfield is still nearly two years away from a mayoral election.  But half-way through a term he had said would be his last, Mike Houston is now hinting at the possibility of re-election.

Mayor Houston says he's not made any decisions about his political future at this time, but he says they may come in sring 2014.

Houston says his decision-making will be likely affected by long-term challenges facing the city, such as road and sewer improvements, consolidation of train traffic and a search for a source of water to supplement Lake Springfield: 

Google Maps

The city of Springfield has agreed to pay the EPA an estimated $1.6 million to clean up coal tar seeping out of the ground on the city's northeast side.

This fall the Environmental Protection Agency will send contractors to dig up Factory Street, about five blocks north of Lanphier High School.

The city owns part of the site where Springfield Iron Co. used to operate in the 1900's.  A power substation and water storage tank sit there today.

Donna Lounsberry/Hoogland Center for the Arts

The Hoogland Center for the Arts starts its fall lineup of performances with the popular musical Gypsy.

The Hoogland's executive director, Gus Gordon, is also directing this production.

Gordon and leading lady Devin Dinora joined us on Illinois Edition to talk about the show they're calling the most ambitious of 2013:

Harvard University

Harvard professor and author John Stauffer is considered an authority on Lincoln and the Civil War.

His latest book charts the evolution of the wartime ballad "Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Stauffer discussed the origin of the tune Thursday at the Lincoln Presidential Museum.  The museum is wrapping up its summer series of book discussions.

A study presented to the Springfield City Council Tuesday indicates gravel pits near the Sangamon River won't be a viable alternate water source during a time of severe drought.

This spring the city hired engineers to determine if it could draw from pits east of town without sucking dry wells in neighboring communities, including Riverton and Dawson.

Some rusty, faded fire hydrants in Hannibal, Missouri are getting creative touch-ups.

Julie Rolsen owns a gift shop in the Mississippi River town and also runs a bed and breakfast.  This spring, city leaders granted Rolsen permission to launch the "Hannibal Hydrant Project".

Peter Gray/WUIS

The stakes are high for honeybees.

A survey conducted by the USDA shows apiaries continue to lose nearly one third of hives each year.

That has led some environmental activists to push for further restrictions on a pesticide used to treat seed corn.

Calvin Christian

The City of Springfield admits it illegally destroyed Deputy Police Chief Cliff Buscher's internal affairs file. 

In a motion filed in Sangamon County Court Friday, the City agrees to pay Calvin Christian $5,000, the fee set for a single violation of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. 

Christian sued the City in May after it said Buscher's file had been destroyed.

Peter Gray/WUIS

A Springfield woman's family tree has deep roots in Greece.

On that tree's branches?  Olives.

Rini Christofilakos-Soler is helping grow her family's business by bringing the olive oil they produce to Springfield.

Peter Gray stopped by Christofilakos-Soler's table at the downtown farmers market to ask about her family farm in Greece:

Find more information at the family's Facebook page

Illinois' online marketplace for health insurance expected to be up and running by October.

Dean Olsen has been keeping an eye on the implementation of "Obamacare" in Illinois.

Olsen is the State-Journal Register's health care reporter. His five-part series in the SJ-R this week focuses on the new health law's impact on consumers, providers and insurance companies.