An Update on ELi’s Health from Our Publisher

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Photo by Dylan Lees for ELi

ELi's Managing Editor Emily Joan Elliott and Publisher Alice Dreger are collecting donations for the ELi water tower to make sure we are here for you in 2022!

Before I get to telling you about what we’ll be doing in terms of the latest in that lawsuit against ELi, and where we stand on our Sustainability Campaign, let me just share that this is the time of year when I find myself deep in gratitude to so many of our readers.

“Thank you so much for all you do. So appreciate the news we get from you. We are lucky to have you in East Lansing!” wrote one on Friday, while sending in a $100 donation.

“You and your team do great work and without honest investigational journalism, bad things happen,” said a note from a core donor, who sent $1,000 for our matching campaign.

“Thank you for this important work,” said a third donor in a note accompanying a $25 donation to support ELi.

This one really made me happy: “I do appreciate the work that you do. In fact, your staff reports it so well, I can’t tell if your left leaning or right leaning with your politics.”

Another reader, who asked us to identify her as Laura C., wrote in something similar: “How ELi manages again and again to stay out of politics yet report everything we need is a minor miracle and greatly appreciated.”

She added that she encourages Michigan grads living in East Lansing, like her, “to make a donation to ELi. Whether here or in Ann Arbor, you will never find a better publication focusing on local news that matters to citizens, regardless of their political beliefs.”

Indeed, our goal at ELi is to be here as a dedicated nonpartisan news source for all the people of East Lansing! We are committed to being here for you, to tell you with accuracy and precision what’s going on in your government and school district, to clearly explain complex stories that may affect your daily life here, and to connect the dots in and around East Lansing in meaningful and illuminating ways.

And it so delights me that people here feel as I do about the ELi team – that, under the leadership of Managing Editor Emily Elliott, the ELi staff does a phenomenal job for this community! From our tech and financial managers to our editors to our reporters, the people working at ELi are mission-driven, hard-working, and they make this public service happen.

So, what’s coming in our public-service reporting?

Even as a lot of us are simultaneously fundraising, the ELi team is continuing to do regular reporting on East Lansing City Council, Planning Commission, and School Board – the bread and butter you expect from us.

We’re also going to be reporting regularly on East Lansing’s new Independent Police Oversight Commission, which starts meeting this week, and of course covering the new Council, which will be seated on Tuesday and will elect a Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem from among the five Council members.

Dylan Lees for ELi

From left: Ron Bacon, Dana Watson, and George Brookover at the ASMSU candidate forum in Oct. 2021, and elected to Council on Nov. 2.

We are also working on staying on big issues our readers have told us continue to be of central concern to them: the sewer system and flooding problems; the reported upswing of student misconduct and management of aggressive and sometimes violent behavior in the schools; the local use of federal Covid dollars; the City’s growing pension debt problem; the appointment of a new city attorney; and the high cost of residency in East Lansing.

Tomorrow we are bringing a detailed ELi Explainer from our new government reporter Al Hargrave about East Lansing’s unusual Percent for Art law. It’s supplemented with sharp photography for ELi by Raymond Holt, Gary Caldwell, and Dylan Lees.

Where are we with the lawsuit against ELi?

In case you missed it, Judge Joyce Draganchuk ruled in our favor on Oct. 27, agreeing with our motion for complete dismissal of the suit filed by local real estate developer Scott Chappelle. ELi’s Andrew Graham has been reporting on this story for us and will continue to do so, if necessary.

Why might more reporting on this be necessary? Chappelle’s lawyers have hinted they might file an appeal.

In a post-dismissal comment to Fox47 New’s Mikayla Temple, Chappelle’s attorney Daniel Powell of the Minc Law Firm wrote, “Although we certainly do not agree with today’s ruling dismissing the remaining defendants in this lawsuit, we are pleased with the progress we have made thus far and will evaluate our options as to Ms. Dreger and ELi in due course.”

Brian Wassom of Warner Norcross + Judd

Andrew Graham spoke with our attorney, Brian Wassom of Warner Norcross + Judd, on this week’s East Lansing Insider podcast, about the case and the context. Brian explained that Draganchuk’s ruling shows not only “how strongly defective [Chappelle’s defamation] claim was,” but also how these suits can create a “chilling effect” on news organizations like ELi.

Andrew and Brian noted this was ELi’s first defamation suit – and that’s not because we’re lucky. It’s because we are careful to be fair and accurate. Of course, anyone can still file a suit against us – even if it is baseless as this one was judged to be – but as I said after the case, we will not be intimidated and will continue to report for this community.

Of course, that work depends on our readers’ financial support!

That’s why we are super grateful for those of you who have stepped up for our 2022 Sustainability Campaign! Here are our current totals:

We have just over $17,000 in the ELi water tower in new donations and monthly commitments (which we count towards our goal by calculating the total annual commitment).  Our goal is to fill the tower to the $200,000 mark in this campaign. That’s the amount we need to make it through all of 2022.

Thanks to NewsMatch and our core donors, we have about $48,000 remaining in the matching funds “tanker truck”!

So, when you give $100 today, that doubles as it goes into the water tower. Commit to just $20/month, and we can match that at the annual rate, bringing us $480 closer to the goal!

We want to drain that tanker truck down, using those matching funds to double your donations. And it is going pretty well: We have 38 new donors to ELi already in this campaign!

Our General Manager Jodi Spicer, who manages our finances, reports that we are twice as far in every metric today compared to where we were in our campaign last year on this day!

That’s an amazing level of support. Last year we raised a total of about $132,000 for the 2021 Sustainability Campaign. The metrics suggest that if we can keep this momentum going, we can hit our $200,000 campaign goal for this 2022 Sustainability Campaign!

Don’t wait – please give or commit to a monthly donation today. Your contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law, and about 90% of your donations go to pay people like Andrew Graham, Emily Joan Elliott, Heather Brothers, Sarah Spohn, Jodi Spicer, Morgan Lees, Al Hargrave, Dylan Lees, and me to bring us all the news.

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