Last week, Poynter’s Kristen Hare interviewed me for the first of a series of articles in Poynter’s Local Edition newsletter. The story, which you can read here, focuses on the question of what we say “no” to at ELi in order to focus on the work of informing our neighbors about what’s happening in our community.
Poynter is “the world’s leading instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st Century democracies.” With resources from online training to answers on journalistic ethics and an international fact-checking network, Poynter is a big deal for most working journalists.
Hare’s story is a similarly big deal to us, because it tells us that, in our fourth fiscal year, ELi is starting to get national attention. What we do is unusual (although increasingly less so as traditional news organizations shrink and shutter), and for all four of those years we have stuck to our mission of delivering unbiased, hyper-local news to the citizens of East Lansing with a team of citizen reporters.
It's also gratifying because, after all these years, it's clear that we are viewed by seasoned news professionals not as a "blog," but as a trustworthy, reliable source of local news.
Poynter “discovered” us because last October, our Publisher Alice Dreger was invited to speak at the national conference for LION Publishers, an organization dedicated to the success of “locally focused independent online news organizations.” Alice’s talk about our work at ELi made an impression on Poynter reporter Hare, who went on to check out our site and interview me about how we make it all work.
I’m delighted to say that Hare’s article captures well the hard work we do with a small team and a shoestring budget. And why, even as we get more attention and more requests to cover different stories and issues, we have to say “no” sometimes so that we can focus on our mission of delivering the most timely, well-written, unbiased, hyperlocal news imaginable.
But we can’t keep doing this without money. And no matter how much national recognition we get, it’s impossible to cover all the news that matters to you if we’re focused on raising the necessary funds to be sustainable in 2018. As Alice said in a recent article, if you want to keep getting the local stories you depend on, “pitch in now” so she can go back to reporting, and I can keep saying “no” to everything but the news you need and want.