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Sunday, January 10, 2016, 7:00 am
By: 
Alice Dreger, Publisher and Board President

At ELi, we limit ourselves strictly to nonpartisan, non-editorial news. As a consequence, we generally refrain from doing anything like “news analysis,” because that tends to veer into subjectivity. And while no one is ever perfectly objective, we do try like heck to be as factual, fair, and balanced as we can be, so that eastlansinginfor.org can be a place where all citizens of East Lansing can go for straight news about their community. We reporters are human, which means we have opinions, but we try hard to leave those at the door when we report for you.

Yet sometimes we see a “big picture” story developing that makes us feel we’d be derelict in our duty if we did not bring it to you. For example, that’s the case with the shift in how City Council has been operating since the elections in November.

I decided to report on this, after consultation with our Managing Editor Ann Nichols, because so many Council-watchers (including ELi government reporting staff) had commented on it to me. If you’re a regular at East Lansing’s City Council meetings, it would be hard not to “feel” the change.

Because Council members are now interacting with citizens who come to the podium, and sometimes even calling on people in the audience to come back and say more long after they’ve stepped down from the podium, there is more of a “town hall” feel to the meetings. Indeed, I’ve found it challenging as a reporter to keep track of who is who, because there are so many more characters stepping into the conversations.

Additionally, perhaps because public discourse around the elections centered a lot on governing style, the issue of governing style has become an open point of discussion at City Council. Council members Shanna Draheim and Susan Woods, in the minority on split votes, have been openly challenging the majority—particularly Mayor Mark Meadows—in how decisions are being made. Their challenges have made  issues of transparency more transparent—issues that before formed a subtext of meetings.

While we can and do report individual instances of split votes and challenges in our articles on Council, it seems important in our service to you to bring you news of these kinds of patterns emerging. That way, if you’re not a devoted watcher of Council (or the School Board, or whatever), you still get to see the forest we ELi reporters are seeing, as well as the trees.

We want to make sure, though, that we are always accurately reporting the news for you in as objective a fashion as possible. Ann and I take very seriously the mail we receive suggesting where we may have gotten something wrong or left out something important out. Once a week, we have a long lunch, as publisher (me) and managing editor (her), to talk about what we’ve learned from the week before, including what we learned from reader reactions.

We often say to each other, “Here’s what we learned from this.” We then talk about that learning as we approach new stories and articles.

That’s why we want to hear from you—because you, our readers, function as advisors to us as publisher and editor- in-chief. For example: Does our report on the shift at Council help you see something you would otherwise not? Do you feel like we approached the story in an objective fashion, such that we didn’t leave out a critical fact or point of view?

We are proud of what we’re bringing you at ELi, and it is clear to us that the quality of the product has a lot to do with what our readers teach us about our service. So please, keep being in touch. In the next week or so, we’ll be sending out another reader survey. Help us out by suggesting what we should be asking our readers on that survey. Help us do good work for you.

And thank you for being a reader of ELi. Please remember to recommend our news service to your friends and neighbors, to “like” us on Facebook, to follow us on Twitter, and to consider us when you make donations to local service organizations. With your help, we’ll keep keepin’ on bringing you news of the people, by the people, and for the people of East Lansing.

 

 

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