The Ten Stories That Meant the Most to Your ELi Reporters in 2020

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Just some of the ELi reporters who brought East Lansing the news in 2020.

For this Top Ten list of favorite 2020 ELi articles as chosen by their reporters, we’ve asked East Lansing Insider podcast producer Andrew Graham to collect and include audio versions for you, so you can literally listen to our reporters voices. You can also read the articles through the links provided below.

1. ELi Summer Youth Journalism Program graduate and reporter Adan Tomas Quan chooses:

ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program Wrote On this Summer

The participants of the 2020 ELi Summer Youth Journalism Program

By Adan Tomas Quan, published on September 25, 2020

My favorite story would be the summer institute story I reported. I liked it because it was fun and interesting to talk to all the other participants, especially in the Tier 2 (advanced) program, and learn more about them. It was also cool to get Mr. Harrell’s perspective and to see why the program mattered to him and the other participants.

2. ELi’s Chief Data Analyst Nathan Andrus picks:

You Get a Car? Depends on Who You Are in the City of East Lansing.

City Manager George Lahanas featured with two City vehicles.

By Emily Joan Elliott and Nathan Andrus, published on September 15, 2020

While it’s hard to pick a favorite article, I would have to choose this article that involved a lot of FOIA data and multiple attempts to get information from the City. Focusing on concerns about possible waste of tax dollars in a financially-stressed city, this report opened up more questions about the City’s “going green” initiatives and has led to the recent article about the City utilizing GPS technology in Department of Public Works and Environmental Services vehicles for tracking employee driving habits. It’s really interesting to see how the question, “How much has the city spent on trucks?” can turn into numerous articles with a lot of interesting insights for East Lansing citizens and taxpayers. 

3. ELi Summer Youth Journalism Program Graduate, ELi Board Member, and reporter Anaiis Rios-Kasoga chooses:

ELHS Black Student Union Promotes Fellowship

Elizabeth Ngassa (left) and Anaiis Rios-Kasoga performing “Summer Night” from the musical “Grease”.

By Anaiis Rios-Kasoga, published on April 1, 2020

This is my favorite story of the year because I got to reflect on how much I love Black Student Union at East Lansing High School. This open mic night in February was so much fun and such a fond memory. I hope we can continue the tradition once we return to in-person school.

4. Publisher, Executive Director, and reporter Alice Dreger selects:

Who Really Benefited from the Center City Bonds’ Refinancing?

Alice Dreger for ELi

Seated from left: Developer Mark Bell, MEDC’s Jeff Mason, Mayor Mark Meadows, and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at the May 2018 celebration of the Center City District project.

By Alice Dreger, published on December 10, 2020

In terms of my investigative journalism for ELi, I am proud of my reporting this year on the Center City District bonds’ refinancing because of two things. First, I feel like I’m bringing a story that many people say “can’t be told” because it’s “too complex,” and yet I feel like we have people really getting the importance. Second, we had a shot at saving the taxpayers $6 million. It’s not often I can point to a story and say, “If we can explain this one right, we might save $6 million in taxes for local public services, including police, fire, road repair, pension debt, the library, educational opportunities, public transportation, and countywide clinical care.”

Because I already read this long bond report aloud for readers for the December 10 special edition of the East Lansing Insider podcast, where I also did a Q&A with our Managing Editor, for today’s audio “reporter’s pick,” I read my remembrance of my friend and ELi supporter John Kloswick, who died in early October.

It was and is my honor to share our community’s memories of John.

5. ELi’s chief Arts and Culture reporter Sarah Spohn remembers:

Volunteer Local Crafters Hard at Work Sewing Masks

A young person named Vera cuts a pattern to make a mask.

By Sarah Spohn, published March 21, 2020

One of the stories I worked on this year that still sticks out in my mind is the coverage on local crafters who made over eleven thousand masks. It’s a great example of what East Lansing Info does best: informing and educating. As reporters, we see something great being done out of the kindness of people’s hearts, by your neighbors, your local businesses, and others. We then tell you about it. We spread the word, and hopefully, the wealth (material and immaterial). The idea of sewing masks was so compelling that other people wanted to get in on the action. They volunteered their supplies or their time, or continued to spread the word. Community involvement equals community growth. We even ran a follow-up story on mask sewing because the “crisis crafters” continued to sew masks, and the community wanted to know more. I bet if we did another followup story, the number of donated masks would be astounding!

6. ELi’s Managing Editor Emily Joan Elliott selects:

The City of East Lansing Decries Bias. Its Workforce Demographics Tell a Different Story.

Raymond Holt for ELi

City Manager George Lahanas at the Feb. 27, 2020, meeting of City Council.

By Emily Joan Elliott, published on July 6, 2020

This article is the one that I have thought of most frequently throughout the year. It really bothered me that, on the surface, employment data from the City of East Lansing almost perfectly mirrored the racial and ethnic makeup of the City’s population, but when I dug deeper, women and people of color were shown to be more likely to end up in part-time, low-paying positions when they work for the City. It was a very poignant example of structural inequities that I think our readers should be aware of, given that City leaders frequently condemn systemic inequities in public comments. We wanted to know the data behind the talk. I also appreciated that the article was a collaborative effort with Nathan Andrus and Alice Dreger who helped me break down the statistics and find the underlying patterns.

7. ELi Summer Youth Journalism Program graduate and reporter Amalia Media recommends:

‘Everything is up in the air’: ELHS Students React to School Closure

Students at East Lansing High School sanitize their hands.

By Amalia Medina, published on March 16, 2020

My favorite story I wrote this year was probably the one I wrote right at the beginning of the pandemic, when everything started to shut down. I don’t necessarily think this was the best-written article I wrote this year, but reading it now is a surreal experience. It’s about what the last week of school was like as everything was shutting down back in March. In order to get all the quotes for the article, I actually recorded—with consent—a conversation among my friends at lunch. The conversation happened on the last day of school, right after Governor Gretchen Whitmer had announced the closure of school for the next three weeks. Rereading the article creates such a weird feeling for me, because we had no idea what was going to happen, and we definitely did not expect to still be in pandemic shut-down the following year.

8. Reporter Heather Brothers is proud of:

‘Race and Ethnicity’ Reports from ELPD Concern Study Committee

ELPD data that showed people of color making up a disproportionate percentage of arrests and officer-initiated contact

By Heather Brothers, published on November 2, 2020

I haven’t written a ton of articles for ELi yet, but this one was my favorite because it allowed me to delve a bit more deeply into a specific issue concerning our community. The article really let me test my skills as a new reporter, as it combined conducting interviews, sitting in on public meetings, and analyzing and interpreting data. It was the biggest piece I’ve done to date, and I’m proud to spotlight an issue I think is particularly important to many community members.

9. City Desk Editor Andrew Graham picks:

Meadows: Harbor Bay Started Asking for Age-Restriction Elimination Over a Year Ago

Gary Caldwell for ELi

Harbor Bay developers have tried to lower the age-related restriction on residency in Newman Lofts..

By Andrew Graham, published on September 24, 2020

It’s always really enjoyable to “come with receipts.” (A more well-known phrase might be “calling bull.”) And that’s what I got to do with this story. Amid Harbor Bay Real Estate’s public efforts to remove the 55+ age restriction from Newman Lofts — which included a press conference in August 2020 spent mostly on the airing of grievances against ELi for our relentless development reporting — the developers held that they needed to get rid of these restrictions to rent to seniors because of the Covid-19 pandemic. They said seniors were put off by the Covid outbreaks tied to downtown. The developers even threatened legal action against the City over this. Enter: Mark Meadows. The man who was the Mayor that inked this deal spoke with me and explained that the developers had been asking to remove the restriction — a legally binding one which they choose themselves, from among three options — since well before the building opened. That’s the kind of longitudinal reporting that makes ELi exceptional as a local nonprofit news service.

10. Finally, the ELi Editorial Team wants you to check out:

Our Spend Locally Series

Yarn from Woven Art, candles from Clever Clover, and a pink spinel set from Sundance Jewelers.

This series consists of more than 40 articles (so far!) that highlight local businesses in East Lansing. Edited by Emily Joan Elliott, the series presents spotlights on specific businesses, several Ann About Town articles in which Ann recounts her local spending experiences, and information on other ways to support people trying to survive right here in our local economy. The project represents an urgent and collaborative effort among ELi’s editorial team, reporters, and readers who sent in their recommendations. This is ELi at its best. We have been so happy to encourage support of local businesses and will continue the series into the new year!

Why are we bringing you this “Top 10” list today? We are proud of the work we do for this community on very little money, and we need your help with a financial donation to keep it coming in 2021. We have raised about $100,000 towards our 2021 Sustainability Campaign goal of $200,000, and the campaign ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Click here to find all the ways you can donate while we have matching dollars. Or, if you want to just hit the big orange button below and donate by credit card immediately, that works great, too:

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