A Tale of Two Households, and One Dogged ELi Reporter

Tuesday, August 8, 2017, 7:25 am
Alice Dreger

Today we bring you what in the journalism business is called a “long-form” story, by ELi reporter Jessy Gregg (photo above).

This story comes to about 3,700 words, which means it will take you about fifteen minutes to read. It has required enormous amounts of research, including specifically contacting over a dozen sources in multiple cities for information or comment, and poring over records of Council meetings and communications. It has involved Jessy learning about the science of sound, the business of air conditioners, and how building records work in East Lansing.

It’s about an air conditioner.

When our Managing Editor, Ann Nichols, assigned this story to Jessy, we never imagined how it would take over Jessy’s life for several weeks. We did not expect to find ourselves waiting each day to hear from Jessy about her latest findings on this story. But that’s what happened.

When you read it—which I’m personally asking you to please do—you’ll see that on the surface it’s about a change in East Lansing’s noise ordinance affecting residential air conditioners. Yeah, I know; that might seem like a pretty minor thing.

But when you read it, you’ll see that, below the surface, this is a story that helps us understand the workings of contemporary life in East Lansing. It involves a neighborhood like those many of us live in, a type of equipment that many of us own, and problems that many of us face: poor sleep and neighborhood tensions. It also involves a two-household dispute leading to engagement with the police and ultimately City Council.

When should Council employ “legislative fixes” to thorny problems? How much information should Councilmembers seek before making a decision? Who should obtain and organize that information? These are the kinds of questions we as ELi Government reporters have every day. But rarely do we get to show you just how complicated those questions are in practice, as Jessy does here.

And you know what? You may think, reading this article, that Jessy has professional training in journalism. The article shows how dogged an investigator she is, and evidences how good she is at telling a complicated story. But Jessy’s background is, in fact, in the arts.

In her life outside of ELi, Jessy serves on East Lansing’s Arts Commission and on the Ingham County Parks Commission. She’s also the founder and head of Warrior Goddess Training Academy which encourages women to get out and run. She’s also got three little kids in the East Lansing Public Schools.

Jessy is a great example of ELi’s embedded citizen-reporter approach. She takes the attitude that if she needs to learn something to get to the bottom of a local news story, she will. Throughout this somewhat tortuous process, I kept assuring Jessy that this is the kind of deep reporting that our readers appreciate—this is the kind of reporting that has brought us to financial sustainability through reader support.

Because it is exactly the kind of non-partisan, hard-hitting, meaningful local journalism that so many communities in America now lack, but we have, thanks to Jessy, Ann, and the rest of the local folks who have stepped up to make ELi’s public service local news production possible.

Okay, enough from me. If you haven’t already done so, go read this beast. And then when you’re done, do me two favors:

Consider joining our ranks of reporters.

And throw us a tax deductible contribution to support the work of Jessy and our other local reporting heroes.

Thank you.


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