What ELi Did This Month and What It Cost

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Friday, May 4, 2018, 7:24 am
Ann Nichols, Managing Editor

Above: ELi reporter/photographer Jessy Gregg artfully arranged the Crystal Award at her home for us, filling it with some of the yarn she's been knitting at Council meetings.

In January, we started bringing you monthly reports of our work and what it costs. We are finding that a lot of people read these reports because it gives them not only an idea of what ELi does, but probably more importantly, a run-down of news they might have missed in the last month.

A note: Because we did not reach our sustainability goal in January, and because we’ve been bringing you news at a solid pace, we are now in a period where we are drawing down on ELi’s bank account. We will need to put effort into fundraising again soon, which unfortunately will take time away from reporting. If you’d like to contribute funds, please do so today. Thank you!

Without further ado, here’s your report for April.

ELi’s production and costs:

The month we had 11 local people work as reporters for us, and together they brought 37 news reports on a wide variety of topics. It cost about $6,600 as explained below. 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.

Reaching out:

April brought us two exciting moments that served to highlight how ELi is intertwined in this community. On April 25, as ELi’s Managing Editor, I wrapped up a partnership with a group of MSU students enrolled in a Community Sustainability class by visiting with them one last time. The group’s coursework included as a major assignment finding a community partner and work on helping that organization to be more sustainable. They picked us.

ELi’s student group (above) and I decided to focus on outreach to EL seniors and the faith community to find more readers, writers, and donors for ELi and to increase awareness of ELi in general. The students made several presentations and wrote an article about ELi for a newsletter sent to many of the city’s senior citizens. All involved thought the town-gown partnership was a success.

On April 19, the entire ELi team was recognized by the City of East Lansing with the Crystal Award for outstanding public service. We’ve since been passing the “cup” around so that our team members can each spend a few days with their award. At three or four days each, it should take us about a year to get it to everyone currently active in the organization. Our founder and Publisher Alice Dreger says she is so happy to share the cup, but she’s hogging the tiara I gave her to celebrate. (Photo below.)

We constantly try to expand the web of people involved in local news reporting through ELi. As part of that, we announced this month that we are hoping to again have a Summer Youth Journalism Program this year. 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.

Reporting on decisions likely to affect local life:

ELi’s chief Schools reporter, Karessa Wheeler, brought our readers the news that the ELPS Board was considering starting the school year before Labor Day. Karessa then also brought us the news from School Board that the vote went through.

Karessa’s Board report also included School Board discussions on programming at Red Cedar, boundaries for elementary school assignments, and Schools of Choice numbers for next year. ELi at-larger reporter Jessy Gregg also dipped into schools reporting for us this month with the news that what happens to the old Walnut Hills golf course could impact ELPS schools’ numbers and borders.

Ann Kammerer brought us the news that ELPD Officer Steve Whelan (above) is ending his role as school resource officer for our high school.

On the government side of things, Jessy reported that Council voted 5-0 to enact changes to the configuration of Harrison Road between Grand River and Michigan Avenues. Alice reported another 5-0 Council vote, one that could have a big impact on downtown: elimination of the “50/50” law that monitored alcohol sales in downtown restaurants and bars.

I reported on Council’s ongoing discussions about where, if anywhere, to allow provisioning centers for medical marijuana in East Lansing. As part of that, I reported on the interest in turning the now-vacant space once occupied by Cosi restaurant into a dispensary (rendering shown above).

Community life reporting:

On April 25, the first “community conversation on race” happened at the Hannah Community Center. We let you know in advance it was coming and then also brought you an in-depth report on the panel discussion. We also showed you the historical map of redlining in East Lansing and told you how you could watch a video of the event.

Jessy took on three community event reports for us this month: (1) on the “Going Solar” event at the East Lansing Islamic Center; (2) on Race for the Place, including the story of Race Director Jon Kermiet’s personal motivation for caring about domestic violence; (3) on an art project in Valley Court Park to recognize victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse.

ELHS student Lucas Walters who started reporting for us when the girls’ basketball team made it to the State finals took on a new assignment for us this month: the story of world-class pianist Ralph Votapek joining the top ELHS band for a performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

With generous support for ELi’s Arts & Entertainment reporting coming from the Responsible Hospitality Council and local restaurants, reporter Chris Wardell kept bringing ELi readers news of unique performers coming to East Lansing to share their art with us. In April, Chris brought us the stories of bluegrass bassist Missy Raines coming to the Orchard Street Pump House and Irish “supergroup” The ALT coming to Ten Pound Fiddle.

Chris also told us about how Toronto native Tim Grimm, who performed at the Pump House, combines his lives as an actor and as a musician, and why the work of Jon Brooks might be thought of as “anti-folk.”

ELi Environment reporter Paige Filice brought the news of a rain barrel workshop, following up on her previous reporting for us about how rain barrels can help improve the environment right in your East Lansing yard. Ann Kammerer brought us a series of features on graduates of ELHS, including sharing their thoughts for soon-to-be-graduates.

ELi’s Calendar editors Val Thonger and Ken Sperber (above) kept ELi’s calendar humming, bringing bulletins on upcoming public meetings, arts events, and much more. Roz Arch continued helping us produce our free weekly e-mail newsletter, which is generously sponsored by Crunchy’s.

Development reporting:

ELi prides itself on being the only news organization that provides steady, in-depth reporting on major development projects in East Lansing. Continuing that service, in April, Alice brought us three in-depth reports: (1) “The Pickle in the Park District,” an analysis of the challenges faced in trying to redevelop the blank space on a key corner of East Lansing’s downtown; (2) a look at the Buzz campaign’s attempts to keep people coming downtown during construction; and (3) an update on Center City District construction, including news about where the Art Festival is moving and what to expect Albert Avenue and the Target store to look like when it’s all over.

And on the tougher side:

We’d love it if we only ever had to report happy news. But then you probably wouldn’t need us. Here’s some of the tougher stuff we reported in April:

We reported this month that the City looks likely to be cutting social services in favor of infrastructure repairs, as it faces dealing with how to pay off the debt related to the Avondale Square housing project. Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the City showed a high level of dissatisfaction with financial management of the City.

ELi Government reporter Chris Root also brought us the news that City Council is talking about the potential for the City to go bankrupt if new revenue sources are not secured. Chris also reported on East Lansing’s filing of a waiver request to the State of Michigan related to its large unfunded pension liability.

Alice reported on an exchange of gunfire downtown at a hookah lounge, and Alice and Jessy followed-up with the story of charges (including assault with intent to murder) in that case.

What did all that cost?

In April, our expenses came to about $6,600, as shown below. As usual, the great majority (about 87%) went to paying local people to work for us. In April, we paid 12 people to work for ELi (reporters, editors, tech), not counting the folks at Layton & Richardson who handle our payroll and tax reporting. (Alice volunteers all her services to ELi, as do some of our other staff/contributors.)

As noted above, because we did not reach our sustainability goal, we are now in a period where we are drawing down on the bank account. We will need to put effort into fundraising again soon, which unfortunately takes time away from reporting. If you’d like to contribute funds, please do so today. Thank you!


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