What ELi Did in June 2018, and What It Cost

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018, 7:25 am
Alice Dreger, Publisher

[Editor's note: The photo above is a joke about how we are busy as bees....even as I tell you that ELi will be on break, barring local disasters, from July 4 - July 8. Photo by Aron Sousa.]

Throughout 2018, we’ve been bringing you monthly reports of our work and what it costs. Today we bring you the report for June 2018. If you’d like to contribute funds or effort to keep this work going at the pace you expect, please do so today. Thank you!

Did you know we have a comprehensive Reader Guide to the Income Tax, nonpartisan as usual?

Yes, indeed! Check out that income tax ballot question guide by Jessy Gregg and me, and share it with folks you think might be voting. Jessy, Chris Root, and I have put a lot of work into keeping you informed on the issue of the income tax vote and the City’s financial challenges, and we’d like our nonpartisan, in-depth reporting to be maximally useful to people here.

We need you to tell us what you’re thinking about the income tax proposal:

Before we get to the meat of our monthly report, we want to draw your attention to something our Community Advisory Board (CAB) came up with when we met on June 26: we are asking readers to consider submitting essays on why they are leaning “yes” or “no” on the August 7 income tax ballot proposal. Read more about that and please share the opportunity!

Our thanks go to the ELi CAB: Barbara Ball McClure, Meg Croft, Alex Hosey, Same Hosey, John Kloswick, Michael Krueger, Chris Root, Thasin Sardar, Beth Scanlon, Dana Watson, and Andy Wells. (Ann Nichols also attends ELi CAB meetings as ELi’s Managing Editor, and I attend as Publisher.)

ELi’s production and costs, in summary, for June 2018:

For the month of June 2018, we had 14 local people work as reporters for us, and together they brought 46 news reports on a wide variety of topics. It cost only about $6,000, as detailed below, with about 87% of costs going to pay local people for this work. This past month, another two donors stepped up to provide $1,000 each, and a number of others also chipped in unexpectedly, and lots of you kept your monthly subscriptions going, all of which bought us real reporting time away from fundraising.

We continued to enjoy wide community support financially, having now reached over 600 individual donors and with local internet provider LightSpeed continuing its generous support of our website. We also want to thank Crunchy’s for continuing sponsorship of our weekly newsletter (sign up for free), and the Responsible Hospitality Council for sponsoring our Arts & Entertainment reporting in June. We’re also happy to tell you that, this month, The Peanut Barrel became a supporter of ELi!

New reporters:

This month we had reports from two members of the community who have not previously been reporters for us. Andrew Barsom answered the question, “Where are good places to bike for recreation starting out from East Lansing?” and Thomas Baumann answered the question, “What is a ‘road diet’ and does it make East Lansing safer?”

The “hard news” stories this month:

ELi works to bring you news no one else will. This was a big month for hard news, and I was grateful to have Andrew Graham, Chris Root, and Ann Nichols working with me on City reporting this month.

We were also grateful to have Karessa Wheeler report for us on the redistricting that’s going to be happening with the elementary schools. I pitched in on schools reporting when a threat was made at the middle school.

There was a lot of reporting just to be done around development projects this month! The omnibus downtown development update provided by Chris and me had a huge readership. Andrew reported that the Hagan Group project came out of limbo and squeaked by in a 3-2 Council vote. I reported that the Center City contractor, facing delays, was looking for more land, and that they got it.

I also brought you news of the latest Park District proposal, and reported on the contentious debate at Council over extending City Attorney Tom Yeadon’s contract.

Ann and I brought you the story of what the Michigan Appeals Court had to say about the scene in East Lansing as it made a decision on the lawsuit brought by City workers. We also told you about a major road closure coming up on Grand River Avenue and about the road work on Sagniaw Street.

In terms of the City’s financial situation, I brought you the news that MSU says it has no more funds to provide for East Lansing’s provision of emergency services to the university, that the Yes campaign is targeting retired voters, and that the income tax exemption was wrong last time around and still needs to be settled. Andrew also reported for us on Council’s 4-1 decision to restore funding to Haven House and other area social service agencies.

An interlude:

Several members of ELi’s team, including me, volunteer their labors. But we can’t bring you that work unless we have an ELi through which to bring it. If you appreciate the work of my team and me, please join me right now in contributing financially to this public service.

People doing good for each other:

This month brought us several stories about people in the community taking care of others. Evan Dempsey told our readers about East Lansing’s Tabooli restaurant hosting the opening of an exhibit of art produced by students who are refugees. ELi’s Managing Editor Ann Nichols reported on efforts by Woven Arts and Edgewood United Church to raise donations for refugees in the area.

Andrew Graham attended the 40th anniversary celebration of East Lansing-based Michigan Energy Options. I interviewed three people who have worked as election inspectors for East Lansing in order to illustrate the job, as City Clerk Jennifer Schuster seeks more help for the August and November elections. (The jobs are short term and they pay.)

Karessa Wheeler told us about a panel presented by the East Lansing Educational Foundation and the Historical Society of Greater Lansing about what happened in East Lansing in 1968.

The Jazz Festival:

We were again a media sponsor for the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival. Andrew Graham provided an overview of this year’s festival, while Sarah Spohn brought us news of Thornetta Davis, “Detroit’s Queen of the Blues,” appearing at the festival. Christopher Wardell gave us the backstory of Lansing-area bass trombonist Chris Glassman, who also performed.

The Happiness Offensive goes on:

We mentioned to you in last month’s report that, as the community faces a potentially contentious election on August 7, at ELi we’re conducting a Happiness Offensive to remind folks of the joys of living here together. Besides news of the Jazz Fest, this month Christopher Wardell also brought you the story of Pumpstock and news of a local reading group that mixes books and beers.

Sarah Spohn gave you the low-down on Groovy Donuts, Andrew Graham told you how to sign up for 4x4 soccer and brought us news from the Lansing United v. Grand Rapids FC game (did you know the games are played in East Lansing?), and we re-ran Ann Nichols’ column about the dog park since it reopened.

Ann Kammerer wrapped up her series on ELHS alum, featuring Gary Mescher, Chloe Reynolds, Luke Miller, and a very special alum who led this year’s high school graduation: Principal Andy Wells. Ann Kammerer also brought us a feature on East Lansing’s much-beloved Conni Crittenden.

Baby animals! Plus…

ELi brought you not one but two reports on baby animals this month. Jessy Gregg told you what happened with some local bunnies and ducklings who got tangled up with humans, and Paige Filice brought an incredibly useful report on what to do if you find a baby animal. (We’ll be re-running that one next year, for sure.)

Paige also brought us the news of what happened at East Lansing’s annual big recycling event – you may be surprised at the numbers! (Andrew Graham helped us out before it happened by reminding people of the annual opportunity.)

Explaining ourselves:

Sometimes Ann asks me to write a “Your ELi” column to help explain our operations, experiences, and decisions to our readers. This month, I wrote three of those: one on “the seven words we can't say on Facebook,” one explaining when we do investigative news and when we don’t, and a third sharing our pain over the murders of newsroom members of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.

More thanks go out…

Just want to give a shout-out here to Ken Sperber and Val Thonger for continuing to manage ELi’s community calendar and for helping us with proofing and lots more, to Roz Arch for producing our weekly newsletter, and to Lisa Lees and Morgan Lees for expertly managing our tech needs!

What did all that cost?

In April, our monthly expenses again came to about $6,000, as shown below. As usual, the great majority (about 87%) went to paying local people to work for us as reporters and support staff (editing, tech, production). In April, we paid 14 people to work for ELi, not counting the professional accounting folks who handle our payroll and tax reporting. (As mentioned above, I volunteer all my services to ELi, as do some of our other staff/contributors.)

In the chart above, "content distribution" refers chiefly to fees we pay Facebook to "boost" our articles to readers (read more about that). "Reporting expenses" included subscripton to SurveyMonkey for polling readers plus $5 in copy charges for research conducted at the Ingham County Register of Deeds related to the Center City District redevelopment and retaining wall stories. "PayPal & Patreon charges" are fees we pay on donations that come through those routes. (Donations made by check cost us nothing.)  We pay dues to INN & LION annually and not this month, so those show up as zero, and we did not purchase or produce materials needed for donor relations this month.

Because we did not reach our sustainability goal this past January, we are now in the period where we are drawing down on the ELi bank account. That said, people stepping up unexpectedly is putting off when we have to fundraise – which is so great! If you’d like to contribute funds, please do so today. Thank you!

Don’t forget about our Summer Youth Journalism Program:

Know a young person aged 15-22 who might be interested in developing the skills that it takes to be a good reporter, including interviewing, researching, photographing, and reflecting on ethical issues like transparency and accountability? Send them our way.

Thank you for participating in the community news production project that is ELi!


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