ELi’s Task Force Producing Recommendations to Publication Restart

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Harley J. Seeley Photography

Alice Dreger, ELi's founder.

As reported earlier, East Lansing Info’s Board of Directors has convened a Task Force to make recommendations for how ELi should move forward to restarting publication in a fashion that is hopefully sustainable. I was asked to lead that Task Force, and it is my privilege to be working with Morgan Lees, Chris Root, Nathan Andrus, Amalia Medina, and Adan Quan. New Board member Chuck Grigsby is also currently joining us for our meetings.

I’m bringing you this update from the Task Force today in order to keep you informed of what’s happening as ELi remains in “quiescent” mode in terms of reporting. We have heard and share the urgency many of you feel about getting ELi back into operational mode. We know there is so much going on that is going unreported, and that feels wrong to all of us who have invested in ELi.

The Board of Directors would like to see ELi restart publishing by early September in order to make ELi eligible to participate again in NewsMatch, the national philanthropic campaign that provides matching funds for our annual sustainability campaigns. To achieve that, the Task Force recognizes that our full report with recommendations needs to be completed by the end of July. We also recognize that the Board needs to move to hire a new Managing Editor immediately, which is why we made that pre-report recommendation on which the Board is now acting. 

The work we are doing is quite difficult. Not only have we been allotted just over a month to create our recommendations and report, it is very challenging to figure out how to put together a new ELi while so many positions will need new staffing. I recently described this as trying to play Jenga in reverse.

Also a challenge is the problem of how to fund what we need to do. Understandably, few new donations have come in while ELi has been quiet, and some donors have withdrawn their monthly support. We were always cutting the budget close by necessity. Now, we have to figure out how to move forward with financial uncertainty.

By necessity, we are looking at creating a model that has a level of volunteer participation more like the original versions of ELi and less like what we had when operations shut down. This is one reason we are providing this interim report of our work: because we want you to be on the lookout for people with the skills, time, and value of nonpartisan/nonprofit news that we will need to help us as reporters, editors, proofers, and fundraisers.

We will need your help beating the bushes to find ELi’s new Managing Editor, new Executive Director, and other members of the new team. These are necessarily going to have to be people who are mission-motivated, not primarily money-motivated, as we move forward.

We are excited about some of the ideas in the works, including creation of a special new onboarding system for reporters, led by Cody Harrell, new Board member and long-time director of our Summer Youth Journalism Program. We are also looking at a new membership model with a time-sensitive e-newsletter to deliver the news in a more accessible and sustainable fashion. And we’re considering how to hone in on the reporting that matters to you the most.

Want to learn more about ELi right now? Have a look at this Guidance Document that was created before my sabbatical to explain the history and operations of ELi. Have ideas about how you can help? Drop us a line at our contact portal.

And please stay tuned for our report, which we look forward to sharing with you.

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