East Lansing Info’s leadership underwent a major change at last Thursday’s Board of Directors meeting. Natalie Rose, who had served as ELi’s Associate Publisher for the past six months, was promoted to Publisher and named Executive Director.
This unanimous decision of the Board occurred with the enthusiastic support of ELi’s founder, Alice Dreger, who is now working as ELi’s third Managing Editor.
Rose, a native of Flint and New York City, came to ELi with a background in nonprofit management, documentary film production, and writing. She earned her Ph.D. in history at MSU, focusing on gender, sexuality, and religion. She has also taught courses on women’s studies and had been encouraged to return to work in the media following the political movements of the last three years.
Her new work will include managing ELi’s budget, grant writing, organizational management, and working with staff on their assignments in local nonpartisan news reporting. She will also lead ELi’s strategic reporting initiatives, which currently include reporting on inequities in East Lansing and on the local environmental and social effects of climate change.
At Thursday’s meeting, the Board also accepted Alice Dreger’s resignation as Publisher and Executive Director. Her new role as ELi’s Managing Editor makes her an employee of ELi for the first time since its founding six years ago. She will also be continuing her work as a reporter for ELi. (ELi’s Managing Editors have historically also functioned as reporters; when they report, at least one other team member edits their work.)
Dreger, a 1990 transplant from New York to the Midwest, has a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University and her bylines include New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, WIRED Magazine, and The Atlantic.
A resident of East Lansing since 1996, Dreger founded ELi as a 501(c)3 nonprofit news service for East Lansing following her frustration with the lack of meaningful independent local news for East Lansing during the BWL outage that started on Winter Solstice 2013.
The original members of the Board were Dreger, former East Lansing mayor Vic Loomis, and MSU faculty members Stephen Thomas and Michael Lawrence. In later years, Merem Frierson and Travis Stoliker also served on the Board.
The original Managing Editor was Smitty Smith, known also for his founding of the Pumphouse Concert series, with Ann Nichols serving as Managing Editor from 2015-2019, ELi’s formative years. (Dreger served as Publisher from 2014-2020.)
In a letter on Friday to ELi’s core contributing team, Dreger expressed her enthusiasm for the change, stating that Rose “has been doing such a fantastic job — I cannot believe we were so lucky as to land her.”
About her “demotion,” Dreger told ELi she is thrilled since it points to ELi’s sustainability and frees her up from administrative work to do what she came for.
“I am so joyful about my demotion!” she said. “Six years in, ELi is standing strong, doing amazing work for our community, informing us every day — as citizens, as taxpayers, as community members. I now have an excellent boss and a wonderful staff.”
Dreger said she planned to celebrate “by grabbing a take-out beer from Crunchy’s and filing a fresh FOIA request.”
ELi’s Board of Directors similarly expressed their excitement for the change. President Sam Hosey said the change will benefit “ELi as an organization and ultimately the East Lansing community.”
He praised both Rose and Dreger for their work. Hosey said that, “In just a few months, Natalie has grabbed the wheel and made several outstanding contributions that have improved our bottom line and led to a more efficient team here at ELi…Natalie is a rising star for sure and well-deserving of the promotion.”
He continued his comments, applauding Dreger’s work, stating, “I haven’t met many people with more integrity than Alice and we are simply blessed to have her. Sometimes I think she has superpowers.”
Other board members echoed Hosey’s sentiments.
Treasurer Raymond Vlasin told ELi that, “We are so very fortunate to have both Alice and Natalie in executive leadership roles since both have tremendous skills and demonstrate profound dedication to ELi.”
Ann Nichols, now a Board member and ELi’s Public Editor, acknowledged this was a big change, but explained that the transition was always part of Dreger’s plan for ELi: “It was always her mission to create something that truly belonged to the community, and that she could hand off [control of] once it was sustainable.”
And, as for the new Executive Director and Publisher, Nichols said, “Natalie is fantastic, and I have every faith in her ability to take ELi and take it places we can’t even imagine yet.”
The Board is also pleased that Dreger is still here to say, even if “demoted.”
Maysa Sitar, ELi Board Secretary and a leader in ASMSU (MSU’s undergraduate student government), told ELi, “I’m also thrilled that Alice is staying on as Managing Editor. In the time I’ve known her she has always brought passion and dedication to every new role she takes on.”
The changes became effective on May 1.
Disclosure: Alice Dreger contributed historical information about ELi for this article.