ELi Is Awarded Two National Grants for COVID-19 Reporting

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

Playgrounds will stay closed until at least July 13, and the dog park will stay closed until at least August 3.

ELi has now received two grants of $5,000 each from the Lenfest Institute and the Google News Initiative Journalism Emergency Relief Fund related to our ongoing COVID-19 reporting.

This funding is critically important to our community, as ELi’s reporting rate from mid-March through the end of April was up 60 percent over the same period in 2019 in terms of number of articles published.

The Lenfest Institute partnered with the Facebook Journalism Project (FJP), Local Media Association, News Media Canada, and The Independent News Challenge to give over 400 independent newsrooms grants to “cover unexpected costs associated with reporting on the crisis in their communities.”

The grant from Lenfest has helped us report on the health emergency’s impact on East Lansing businesses, MSU international students, people in our community who have been furloughed and laid off, and East Lansing’s schools’ and city’s budgets. With this funding, we’ve been able to assign reporters to cover stories like how our city government and local community members have united to support local businesses through continued patronage and the DDA grants.

We have also closely followed discussions and debates among local leaders about responses to the crisis, and have kept you informed about how to participate in public meetings. (See our full reporting on COVID-19 here.)

We will continue to follow these stories throughout the summer as questions continue to emerge about how our public schools will operate in the fall, how the city will aim for economic recovery, and what exactly will be happening with MSU.

The Google News Initiative Emergency Relief Fund has also served to alleviate immediate financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. For that application, we focused on our highly successful Summer Youth Journalism program with the recognition that we may need to run the program virtually this year for the first time.

Why run the annual program this year, when everything is topsy-turvy? We believe that now is not only an important time to foster independent newsrooms but an important moment to cultivate the next generation of citizens dedicated to nonpartisan and factual news stories. 

In our application, we also noted, “This year presents an extraordinary opportunity to help make up for the education our young people are missing through the closure of Michigan schools for the rest of the school year — and provides them training and jobs that are critically important to their future success.”

Graduates of our Summer Youth Journalism Program have been contributing to our coverage of the COVID19 epidemic, including reporting on how high school students immediately reacted to the closures and are coping during the pandemic, the temporary closures of local businesses, and how a local group led by School Board President Erin Graham has raised funds and distributed supplies to aid the most vulnerable in our community including students and seniors. 

While these grants will prove so helpful to sustaining our finances, ELi still receives its biggest share of support from our readers. ELi is only possible because so many of our readers are also donors. 

We remain so humbled and grateful for the results of our latest fundraiser, through which we raised over $16,000. We know that providing accurate journalism is fundamental during a crisis such as the pandemic we are currently living through.  We would not have been awarded these grants if we could not show that we were a sustainable organization that provides a necessary service. Thank you for your support!

And remember that, thanks to your support, ELi remains free and open to all, always. Please let your friends and neighbors know we are a place they can turn for important local news, information, and answers to questions, without charge or annoying pop-up ads, and always in the spirit of public service.

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