East Lansing Info’s Annual Report for 2019

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East Lansing Info (ELi) provides nonpartisan, nonprofit, meaningful local news and information about East Lansing, Michigan. We take donations from the community and engage a team of paid and volunteer citizen reporters in the process of bringing high-quality, accurate, relevant reports of life in East Lansing.

Today we bring you a report of our activities for 2019. Highlights this year included:

  • Jodi Spicer joining us as Office Manager and NewsMatch Coordinator
  • Jiquanda Johnson and Ann Nichols joining our Board of Directors
  • Dana Watson becoming Chair of our Community Advisory Board
  • Cody Harrell adding an advanced course to our Summer Youth Journalism Program
  • ELi obtaining $30,000 in NewsMatch funds
  • Raymond Holt joining as lead photographer/videographer and producing a video that explains our work in less than four minutes:

In 2019, ELi brought 578 original reports from 45 local citizen-reporters (some of whom are professional reporters).

We covered East Lansing city government, East Lansing Public Schools’ Board of Trustees, the City Council election, the institution of the new income tax, big development, zoning changes, parking issues, arts and entertainment, downtown businesses, police activity, the local environment, and a whole lot more. Click here to see the most-read stories at ELi in 2019, and click here to see reporters’ favorite assignments.

Our reporters included: Kepler Domurat-Sousa, Alice Dreger, Casandra Eriksen, Paige Filice, Andrew Graham, Chris Gray, Jessy Gregg, Cody Harrell, Alex Hosey, Chris Hosey, James Hosey, Sam Hosey, Ann Kammerer, Annette Kopachik, Noa Kuszai, Xochitl Kwasnik, Mara Logan, Amalia Medina, Mark Meyer, Brad Minor, Ann Nichols, Tom Oswald, Bob Page, Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, Chris Root, Natalie Rose, Kata Rothhorn, Maysa Sitar, Somer Sodeman, Victoria Solomon, Aron Sousa, Ken Sperber, Sarah Spohn, Meri Anne Stowe, Sophia Strasburg, Dan Totzkay, Jonathan Townley, Katie Van Dorn, Mike Vasievich, Lucas Walters, Christopher Wardell, Ashleigh Weiszbrod, Karessa Wheeler, Nick Wright, and Daniel Zarka.

Our staff includes more than reporters, because it takes more than reporters to bring the news.

Raymond Holt is our lead photographer/videographer, with additional photography services provided by Jim Pivarnik and Gary Caldwell. Ken Sperber and Val Thonger serve as our calendar editors and managers. Mark Meyer serves as lead editor, alongside Alice Dreger. On January 1, 2020, Natalie Rose became our Associate Publisher.

Lisa Lees and Morgan Lees are our great tech managers. Jodi Spicer is our genius office manager and NewsMatch manager. Our accountants work at the East Lansing branch of Clark Schaefer Hackett and MSUFCU does our banking.

We ran the whole dang operation on about $100,000.

How do we do that? We use a blended staffing model of volunteers and paid staff. Our biggest savings comes from Alice Dreger donating her administrative and reporting services.

Consistently about 85% of your donations have been going to paying local people to work for the community in the service of news provision; that is true year after year. In 2019 we spent $84,916 on payroll and payroll taxes. We also spent $735 on local accountants who manage our payroll and help us with tax forms.

Our other expenses included advertising and postage expenses ($8,210 total), reporting expenses ($2,538; chiefly charges for the Freedom of Information Act requests), office supplies and internet costs ($1,575, including such things as stationery and photocopies). We also paid $2,393 in overhead charges for donations made by credit card, and we paid to belong to the Institute for Nonprofit News and LION Publishers.

In terms of income, in 2019 we obtained $116,403 in donations and $25,000 in match funds from NewsMatch plus $5,000 in NewsMatch bonuses related to our 2018 year-end fundraising campaign.

LightSpeed was bought by MetroNet and we are honored that that company has now become the lead sponsor of our webpage. Crunchy’s has generously continued sponsorship of our weekly e-mailer. EquityVest and the Responsible Hospitality Council have kindly renewed their commitment to sponsorship of our Arts & Entertainment reporting. (Want to sponsor a section of our reporting? Contact us!)

We expanded oversight of our work.

Our Board of Directors – Alice Dreger, Sam Hosey, Jiquanda Johnson, Mike Lawrence, Ann Nichols, and Stephen Thomas – have voted to add Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, Maysa Sitar, and Ray Vlasin to the group starting at our January 30, 2020, meeting.

Our Community Advisory Board is now chaired by Dana Watson and also includes Meg Croft, Alex Hosey, Sam Hosey, John Kloswick, Mike Krueger, Barbara Ball-McClure, Chris Root, Thasin Sardar, and Maysa Sitar.

We continue to engage young people in news reporting.

Cody Harrell directed our Summer Youth Journalism Program for the third year in a row, and this year he taught two courses, sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, Niki and Jason Schreiber, Colleen M. Kiernan, and ELi’s Publisher Alice Dreger and her spouse Aron Sousa. Chris Hosey, Xochitl Kwasnik, Rylie McClean, Noor Pawar, Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, Sophia Strasburg, and Ashleigh Weiszbrod completed the introductory class, while Kepler Domurat-Sousa, Adham Fattah, Noa Kuszai, Mara Logan, and Somer Sodeman completed the advanced class on investigatory techniques.

Students in the twin programs ranged from ages 15 to 19 and are enrolled in a variety of educational institutions this year, including East Lansing High School, Okemos High School, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago. Along with the opportunity of having their reports published, the twelves students each received a $250 educational stipend. Guests included Sam Hosey, Raymond Holt, Alice Dreger, Jiquanda Johnson of FlintBeat, Director of Public Works Scott House, and ELPD Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez.

The ELi team loves East Lansing, and this community loves us back.

In 2019, we received 2,209 unique donations from 490 unique donors. During our year-end sustainability campaign (November – December 2019), we had 141 new donors to our organization. We anticipate obtaining the full 2019 NewsMatch available funds of $20,000 in March plus bonuses from NewsMatch for meeting two of their bonus metrics.

All in all, 2019 was a phenomenal year for ELi and we anticipate an even better year in 2020!

We are grateful to ELi’s Office Manager Jodi Spicer for her expert record-keeping, which has made production of this report a lot easier than in past years!

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