Which 10 Articles Were Most-Read at ELi in 2019?

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Friday, December 27, 2019, 8:30 am
Alice Dreger, Publisher

Photos above by Raymond Holt for ELi.

Thanks to some data-wrangling by long-time core ELi staff members Lisa Lees and Ken Sperber, we are able today to tell you which 10 reports were the most-read at ELi in 2019.

We’re bringing this list as we count down on our 2020 Sustainability Campaign, which ends Tuesday, Dec. 31, at midnight. Until then, we have matching funds to double your tax-deductible gift to East Lansing Info, our community’s local, nonprofit, nonpartisan news service.

If you haven’t helped this year, we really need you while every dollar is doubled. As you can see from our latest Sustainability Campaign report, we are getting close to our goals!

Our most-read story of the year came just after the start of 2019: “Green Grocer and Upscale Market Coming to Downtown East Lansing.” Like a lot of our biggest stories, this is one ELi broke because a reader tipped us off.

In this case, it was a reader who lives downtown at the condo complex above Omi Sushi on MAC Avenue. She had been out walking and saw signs indicating that the former mac-and-cheese place was going to become Campbell’s Market Basket.

Above: Hunter Seyfarth and Ken Campbell in a photo taken for an ELi feature by Ann Kammerer on their two businesses.

I contacted owner Ken Campbell, who turned out to live a block from me in the Oakwood Historic Neighborhood, and he gave us the happy scoop. Since then, Campbell’s Market Basket has become my own go-to grocery store, in part because a lot of ELi readers shop there. That means it’s a great place for me to pick up story tips while I also grab some super-fresh eggs.

The next two most-read stories were not happy ones; both were about the City of East Lansing firing health-and-safety whistleblower Troy Williams (below), who had worked at the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Published in February, the first of the pair brought the news that the City had terminated Williams’ employment because, City officials said, they could not find a job to accommodate his work-related health issues.

The second, published in March, reported Williams’ belief that he had to do the right thing even if it meant putting his and his family’s well-being at risk. Later in the year, we reported that City Council voted to settle with Williams, just after the Council election.

The problems at East Lansing’s wastewater treatment plant formed the basis for a story I spent the last five years covering. You can see our “landing page” for that reporting here. Without ELi, I would have had no means by which to bring forward that really important investigative environmental reporting. So, thank you for supporting this work.

Next up, we have another major story broken by ELi, this one reported by Mark Meyer, who is also ELi’s lead editor and sports reporter: “East Lansing Art Festival Shake-Up Happens Just Weeks Before Event.”

This was a challenging story to report because very few people involved wanted to talk to Mark about the termination of the Art Festival’s director. But Mark has stayed on the story of the festivals’ shake-ups, and intends to bring more on that in 2020.

One of the goals of ELi is to tell you before City Council, Planning Commission, or the Downtown Development Authority makes a big decision, so that you can weigh in and have your voice heard. It was a June report of just that sort that came in as our fifth-most-read article of 2019. You can see that story here.

Our latest installment in “the driveway drama” also made the Top 10 most-read list. That report brought the news that, rather than arresting property owner Michael Zydeck over reconstruction of a driveway in the Bailey neighborhood, City Attorney Tom Yeadon (below, center) had decided to sue him on behalf of East Lansing. Zydeck’s lawyer Mark Grebner called the move unethical.

Why has a few square feet of residential concrete garnered so much interest? Like our locally famous report by (now Council member) Jessy Gregg about one noisy air conditioner in the Glencairn neighborhood, the driveway drama sits at the nexus of bigger issues: tensions between homeowners and students in near-university neighborhoods; property rights; our incredibly complex zoning code; the left hand of City Hall not talking to the right hand; Yeadon’s work as City Attorney; and the use of City funds to pay for lawsuits some believe a waste of taxpayer money.

In other words, sometimes a driveway is not just a driveway. We’ll find out in 2020 what happens next in that case, as we expect interest in it to remain high.

What we won’t see in 2020 is the continuation of Mackerel Sky, an East Lansing institution. Our article about that store’s forthcoming closing made the most-read list for 2019. It also brought forward an outpouring of love for owners Tom and Linda Dufelmeier (below) and a good deal of concern about the fate of unique small businesses in East Lansing’s rapidly changing downtown.

The next-most-read item at ELi was not a single news report but our 2019 Voter Guide to the City Council Election, which provided links to ELi’s in-depth campaign coverage from several of our reporters, including Chris Root, Brad Minor, Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, and Ken Sperber.

East Lansing is unusual for a town our size in having a news organization that provides this level of coverage for a local election, but we know that our readership highly values this. So, when we cover a City Council election, we analyze campaign finance reports, fact-check campaign claims, and survey readers to get their questions into the local debates.

The last two articles in today’s list fall at the opposite ends of the local stress spectrum.

The Hub Fails to Make Its Move-In Deadline; Traffic Snarl Ensues” documented the pain and suffering occurring during the opening of Core Spaces’ big new student housing development at the corner of Bogue Street and Grand River Avenue.

By contrast, “River Trail to Be Extended East,” by Jessy Gregg, brought the calming news that “All the parts are finally starting to fall into place for a much-anticipated trail in Meridian Township” that will make it possible for pedestrians and bicyclists to stay on a nonmotorized trail east of Hagadorn Road.

We hope to keep bringing you the same depth and breadth of reporting in 2020! If you want that to happen, grab your credit card info and click on the big orange button below right now, and we’ll obtain a match that doubles your donation. Or click here to see all your different options for donating.

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