Judith Valente | WGLT

Judith Valente

News Reporter

After traveling the country for PBS-TV for the past 15 years, Judy Valente was looking for a new challenge. She is delighted to have found one WGLT as a member of the GLT news team, allowing her to grow here in Normal where she is planted. Judy is also an award-winning poet and the author of two poetry collections. She recently completed a memoir of her regular visits to Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery in Atchison, Kansas, called "Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and a Living Faith." She is often invited to speak on how to slow down and live a more contemplative life.

In her free time, this New Jersey native likes to traverse the Illinois prairie and is a member of the Illinois Master Naturalist program. She enjoys theater, especially Broadway musicals and Heartland Theater's 10-Minute Play Festival. She is also a lay associate of the monastery in Atchison, having taken vows to live out the monastic values of listening, humility, hospitality, simplicity and stability in her life as a married woman – and as a professional writer and journalist.

Ways to Connect

Judy Valente / WGLT

In the coming weeks, GLT News will bring you a series of stories on the future of water in McLean County. You'll hear about the quality and quantity of water and update you on potential threats. Reports will explore conservation efforts, and how you can do your part to create a cleaner, more plentiful water supply. And you'll meet the people responsible for keeping our water safe. In this segment, discovers what happens when you flush.

Pope Francis' historic visit to Philadelphia this past weekend drew more than a million people. Among them was WGLT's Judy Valente, who accompanied a group of pilgrims from central Illinois. They drove through the night in a van to get there, hoping for a glimpse of the man in white. They got that and much more.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

This year marks the 150th anniversary of one of the most influential children's books of all time, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book has inspired numerous films, plays and songs, and gave rise to an industry of children's toys. Illinois State University English Professor Jan Susina recently returned from England's Cambridge University where he lectured on the enduring legacy of Alice and her memorable companions, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat.

The stone house with the wrap-around porch and large turret is a fixture off Old Route 66 in Lexington. Locals know it as "The Castle." It's the home of longtime residents Chuck Wright (pictured) and his wife, Mary. The Wrights have spent 30 years restoring the residence. Now they are working to turn their property into a carnival-like venue for special events, complete with a restored carousel. In another of our occasional series on Unknown Illinois, GLT's Judy Valente takes you to the play land the Wrights are trying to create in the heart of Lexington.

Jared Pohl, Flicker

In what may be the only case of its kind in the country, the Catholic diocese of Peoria returned a Bloomington priest to ministry who served time on felony drug charges. Neither the diocese nor the priest formally publicly disclosed his background to the people who attend the two parishes he serves. The handling of the case raises familiar questions about transparency in the Catholic Church and about balancing an individual's right to privacy with a congregation's right to know.

Mary Jo Adams

A gunshot rings out on a farm just outside of Normal. Conservation police soon find a female bald eagle wounded in a field. The bird receives emergency treatment, but cannot rebound. For Mary Jo Adams, an Illinois master naturalist, news of the eagle's death is particularly devastating.

"It just kind of breaks my heart to see the nest empty now when we should be seeing one to three eaglets poking their heads out."

Justice Department officials are seeking widespread changes in policy, training and the hiring of officers in Ferguson, Missouri following the stunning report detailing a long-term pattern of racially-biased policing there.

Staff

Transgender or transexual individuals--people who seek to change their gender--are becoming more visible and more vocal. Earlier this month, it was revealed former male Olympian athlete Bruce Jenner is transitioning to female. Transgender actress Laverne Cox of the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black," appeared last year on the the cover of Time magazine.

Staff

Many transgender individuals--people who seek to change their gender--once felt compelled to live largely secret lives. Buoyed by the strides the gay community has made in recent decades, transgender people are increasingly speaking out.

Bloomington Police Dept.

Local police officials will face citizens tonight at a meeting called by the the community group Not In Our Town, the local NAACP and other civic organizations. The main topic is likely to be controversial statements made by white Bloomington police officers about African Americans.

President Obama is calling for a sustained national conversation about what he calls "simmering distrust" between police and minority communities. We begin a five-part series on police and race in the Twin Cities. From a four month WGLT investigation, you'll hear from citizens who say they feel police target them and from police who must balance combating crime with safeguarding individual rights. Judy Valente has this report.

Traffic stops account for the most common encounters citizens have with local law enforcement. Most stops are routine. Others can provoke considerable tension. In Illinois, minority drivers are twice as likely as whites to be stopped and searched for drugs or weapons, even though contraband is found more often on whites. Under a Freedom of Information Act request, WGLT's Judy Valente reviewed 90 traffic stops that occurred over two days in Bloomington and Normal. Part 3 of the GLT News investigative series "Police and Race in the Twin Cities" uncovered some surprising results.

Over the past four decades, courts and legislatures have given increasingly broad powers to the police. According to constitutional law experts, there's been a corresponding decrease in citizen's rights. In the 4th part of the GLT News investigative series "Police and Race in the Twin Cities," Judy Valente reports on how routine traffic stops can escalate into more serious confrontations, and on the difficulties citizens face in pressing claims of civil rights violations by police.

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