Why I Report For Eli

Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 7:18 am
By: 
Jessy Gregg

**Want to join ELi’s Sustainability Campaign to make sure we can keep Jessy working for ELi through 2018? Click here.**

Before I started writing for East Lansing Info, the last piece of “journalistic” writing I had produced was a front-page story for my high school newspaper about a turkey packaging plant near the town where I grew up. I think it was supposed to be an edgy exposé with a Thanksgiving theme. My dad drove me to the interview and sat with me while I awkwardly interviewed the plant manager in his office.

My high school newspaper was called “The Spud,” because our athletics mascot was a big potato.

Fast forward twenty years to me, feeling stunned by an election result that I didn’t understand and realizing that I didn’t know anything about how government really works. “I’m going to figure this out!” I declared to myself. “I’m gonna go to City Council meetings…and write about them!!”

So, without really thinking through the possible consequences of my actions, I wrote to Ann Nichols and told her that I wanted to go to City Council meetings…and write about them! And she said, “Great! We might be closing our doors tomorrow, but if we can make it through the New Year we would love to have you.”

That was right before ELi launched their (I’ll say “our” because I’m pretty invested in the success of this outfit) first sustainability campaign last year, and we pulled through in the final hours. While we had all been hoping that the public would step up and support us, it also meant that things went from “Let’s just see if we get through this,” to “All hands on deck!” practically overnight.

I suddenly found myself sitting in the front row of the City Council's chambers with a laptop instead of a knitting bag, squinting at name plates to figure out which Council member was which. I’m a fairly quick study though, and luckily for me I was also accepted into the East Lansing Emerging Leaders program right about that same time, so I had access to City employees and a lot of background information to help me figure out how to tell the story of East Lansing City Government.

Have you ever jumped into a swimming pool that you thought was fairly shallow only to realize that it was way over your head? That’s pretty much what it felt like, and kind of still feels like. There are three of us that do the bulk of the City Council reporting, with a few others pitching in when they are able, and it’s a constant triage of what we will be able to cover and what we have to let slide. There’s just too much going on in East Lansing right now for us to cover.

So why do I write for ELi?

I have an information addiction. I want to know everything.

And I want you all to know everything, too. I think that strong city governments are built by engaged citizens who take an interest in the goings-on of their towns. I also know that it’s unlikely busy people will spend their free time watching City Council meetings and reading commission meeting minutes.

I hope that I can help people answer the question “What is going on?” and I hope that I will see you all in line at the polls on election day ready to use your votes to make a difference in our town.

Do I sound idealistic? There’s still a curious kid inside me awkwardly kicking her heels in the turkey plant manager's office asking, “But how does it all WORK?!” I am going to go find out, and I’ll tell you all about it when I do.

Check out this recent and major reporting by Jessy:

**Want to join ELi’s Sustainability Campaign to make sure we can keep Jessy working for ELi through 2018? Click here.**

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