The Christian Science Monitor

As local news outlets struggle to survive, citizen-led efforts are stepping up

At right, Alice Dreger, founder of the citizen journalism initiative East Lansing Info, hosts her summer government reporting team for an evening strategizing meeting on her porch on June 12, 2018, in East Lansing, Michigan. Source: Christa Case Bryant /The Christian Science Monitor

It doesn’t exactly sound like a crack investigative team: a former scholar of sexuality with a background in mortgage brokering; a mild-manned Buddhist with a law degree; a concerned citizen who’s an expert on foraging and cooking weeds; a mother who woke up the day after President Trump’s election and decided she needed to learn about government; a college journalism student home for the summer; and an enterprising high schooler who is into drone ordinances.

But they are all part of East Lansing Info (ELi), a citizen-journalist initiative with a budget of just $70,000 a year that has become a surprisingly influential force in this city of 50,000.

“If you had a professional army doing what we’re doing, it’s a $1 million operation,” says founder Alice Dreger, who calls their shoestring operation a “news militia.”

ELi is one of a growing number of nonprofit news initiatives that have sprung up

Accountability to the communityA Democratic city against tax hikes

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