NPR’s Fresh Air Talks about ELi as a Local News Model

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Margaret Sullivan's book, Ghosting the News.

My phone has been pinging with happy texts since noon yesterday, as ELi readers listening to NPR are hearing East Lansing Info talked about in Dave Davies’ interview with the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan.

Davies had Sullivan on yesterday’s episode of Fresh Air to talk about her new book, Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy.

ELi readers have been seeing mentions of ELi in reviews of the book, too, in places like The Atlantic and Los Angeles Times.

In the 95-page book, Sullivan dedicates four pages to covering ELi, and includes what I often tell people is the most exciting thing about ELi:

“For Dreger, one of the most notable and surprising results of her experiment is the way a group of amateur reporters made East Lansing residents appreciative of professional journalism. ‘People didn’t see the news as a service, they saw it as a product,’ she said. But she has found that people, including those who work with her, ‘are having energetic conversations about the meaning and purpose of news. This has turned a lot of people into evangelists for news.’”

I have been a fan of Sullivan since she was the Public Editor at the New York Times. In that job, she served as readers’ advocates, looking into complaints about work by New York Times’ reporters and editors – often criticizing the paper.

The job that Sullivan did there directly inspired the establishment of a Public Editor position at ELi, a position now held by our former long-time Managing Editor Ann Nichols. In fact, when I asked Ann if she would serve as Public Editor, she answered excitedly, “You mean I get to play Margaret Sullivan?!” (She is also a big fan.)

When Sullivan moved to the Washington Post and started writing about local journalism, I got in touch with her to let her know what we were doing at ELi. That led to her interviewing me last summer during her research for her new book.

Here’s what she recently tweeted about ELi:

It’s pretty exciting for us to see ELi covered in the book as an example of “hope” for local news in America. And with Natalie Rose now talking on the biggest ELi job I used to do – Executive Director and Publisher – I am working on freeing up some of my time to help spread ELi’s model. I just put my name in the running for election to the Board of Directors of the Institute for Nonprofit News in the hope of helping small “news brigade” starts up like ELi through that position.

And our model is getting out there! Just yesterday, I spoke with a group in a small city in Connecticut starting up an ELi, and today I received a warm email about the Fresh Air interview from a person I’ve been advising in a small city in Minnesota about starting an ELi. What we’ve done here is going to help people in cities all over America – and possibly all over the world – bring themselves the news!

We know people here may want to read the book, and so we have arranged for Sullivan to sign a few hundred copies of her book to share with our donors.

Want to get one of those signed copies?

If you’ve already given over $250 this year to ELi,  you don’t need to take any action. When we get the books, we will send you one as our thanks. If you want to make sure we have your right address, do us a favor and fill in this short form now.

If you haven’t already given $250 to ELi this year and want a signed copy of the book, you can get one as a thanks for a new $50 donation. If you’d like to do that, please don’t donate yet – just fill out this short form and we will be in touch about how you can make your donation to get the signed copy. Thank you!

Want to listen to or read a transcript of the Fresh Air interview? Click here.

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