Why I Report for ELi

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Managing Editor Emily Joan Elliott during a research trip to Moscow, Russia.

As we continue our 2021 Sustainability Campaign with matching funds now available, ELi’s Publisher Alice Dreger asked me to explain why I work for ELi. ELi runs on donations from our readers, and consistently about 85% of donated dollars go to pay local people like me to work bringing East Lansing the news. We hope you will join your neighbors in support now!

I started working for ELi after I saw a post in January 2020 from Natalie Rose, who previously served as ELi’s Publisher and Executive Director. Like Natalie, I had also earned my Ph.D. in history at Michigan State University. At that time, I was an adjunct assistant professor in the MSU Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, a freelance researcher for Building Matters Ann Arbor, and a class facilitator for the Capital Area Literacy Coalition. I thought ELi would be a part-time job, something that I did on the side to make a few extra bucks.

So, maybe the better question is, why did I decide in October to make being ELi’s Managing Editor my only job?

When I first met Natalie and Alice on that crisp January morning, I immediately felt at home. Like me, they were from New York and had doctorates in history. But more than that, I appreciated the constructive atmosphere that ELi provided. While earning my Ph.D., I was trained to do research and make complex ideas understandable. Those skills were celebrated at ELi, and it was a constructive atmosphere to learn the things I didn’t know, like the ins-and-outs of city government and AP Style.

ELi became my most valued job because it provides such an important service to our community. As just one example, in early February, I wrote an article about how to prepare for an emergency and included suggestions for the possibility of a pandemic. I spoke to MSU Epidemiologist Dr. Nigel Paneth. When Michigan had its first confirmed cases of Covid-19, I spoke to Dr. Paneth repeatedly. Those days were uncertain as we were still learning about the virus and how to limit its spread and treat those diagnosed with it. Dr. Paneth gave us informed answers that we could provide you. One of my interviews with him was our most read article for a period of time and spread beyond Michigan. I felt my work had value.

I still feel that way. In my work for ELi, I’ve interviewed and heard from countless people in the last year—parents of ELPS students, council members, students, City employees, and others. I’ve also met other amazing people on the ELi team. Since becoming Managing Editor, I’ve worked closely with Alice, City Desk Editor Andrew Graham, Chief Data Analyst Nathan Andrus, Public Editor Ann Nichols, and General Manager Jodi Spicer.

I value my work and serving the East Lansing community, but ELi also values my work. ELi compensates its reporters fairly for their work. I had been working multiple jobs over the past year and a half to make ends meet, but my salary from ELi is sufficient to live on. I appreciate the fair compensation for my labor and respect ELi as an organization for making fair compensation a cornerstone of its mission.

Want to help keep this virtuous cycle of donations-and-news-production going in East Lansing?

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