Tools for Our Citizen-Reporters

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Want to be an ELi citizen-reporter?

It's really quite easy, and you don't have to have any experience as a professional reporter or writer. Our editors will help you! All you have to do is have a desire to help out in sharing local news and information in a non-partisan, non-editorial way. We can even provide story ideas if you don't have your own, although we always welcome pitches from people who are embedded and know what their neighborhors should be hearing about!

How do I find a topic or propose a topic?

  • You can propose a specific topic to an editor. (Remember it needs to focus on East Lansing and be factual, accurate, non-partisan, and non-editorial in approach.)
  • You can ask an editor for possible topics (you can specify you area of interest), and commit to one (or more).
  • You can become a regular reporter who follows a particular story (e.g., BWL vegetation management) or topic area (e.g., Planning Commission; high school administration; astronomy). In that case, you will work with an editor to keep us apprised of what you’re planning to submit, and when.

How does submission and editing of an article work?

  • You and an editor will work out a deadline (hard or soft), and then you’ll submit the article to the editor as a Word document.
  • If there is significant editing, the editor will check back with you. If the piece only requires small corrections (like punctuation or spelling, or changing paragraph breaks), the editor will post it without checking back.
  • If an article requires too much editing to be worth our resources, we may reject it.
  • If you have a high-quality photo to submit with your article, you can do that, or if you think you won’t have one, let us know (preferably early) and we will arrange a photo.

How does payment work?

  • Whether a writer is paid or volunteers her/his work is up to the writer. We never question anyone who wants to be paid.
  • Writers are only paid if work is published; we don’t pay for drafts because then there is no incentive to submit high quality work and to work with the editors.
  • Typical payment for a short piece requiring no special research is $25-50. For a piece requiring interviews or other research, typical pay is $75-100. For pieces that require substantially more effort (e.g., attending a long meeting and writing up what happened), pay is generally higher. For example, a report about an issue discussed and/or voted on at City Council will typically pay $125.
  • We send out checks at the end of the month unless you have a special need to be paid sooner. If you regularly report for us, you'll be paid on a W-2 basis (with tax withholding and social security contributions). If not regularly, you'll be paid on a 1099 basis.
  • If you are likely to earn $600 or more in a calendar year with us, we need you to fill out a tax form with your social security number and we report the total payment to the IRS at the close of the calendar year.
  • If you are a minor, you need to show us your work permit.

Want to give it a try? Here's what you should do:

  • Take a look at our checklist of questions for authors. These help you understand what we publish.
  • Contact us to be connected to an editor.
  • If you're worried about how your draft should look, take a look at our at our style guide and also look at our handout on editorial versus non-editorial prose styles.
  • If you're being paid, ask your editor about the tax forms. If you're not being paid, make sure we have your address so we can acknowledge your donation of time and effort!

We want you on the team!
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