Homicide Watch


How The Boston Globe is covering the Boston Marathon bombing trial

When Laura Amico started at The Boston Globe this summer, she knew one of her biggest projects would be helping decide how the paper would cover the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of two brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings.

Amico, The Globe’s data and multimedia editor, knew from experience that covering trials can be tricky. As one of the co-founders of local crime site Homicide Watch D.C., she’s aware that trials don’t always unfold in orderly narratives. Instead, they develop in fits and starts, depending on which witnesses are called and which exhibits the prosecution and defense choose to enter.

“One thing I’ve always struggled with while sitting in trials is that attorneys don’t actually build narrative,” Amico said. “They build argument. And they do it through witnesses and through the introduction of exhibits and evidence.”

The challenge, Amico said, is to create a way to track those arguments as they’re made, provide context and impose order on them. And to do all of those things in a way that delivers efficient, bite-sized pieces of information with a minimal amount of commitment from the reader.

To that end, Amico and her team have been preparing since October to adopt a structured journalism approach to covering the trial. In structured journalism, any type of story is broken down into disparate pieces of information that are saved in a database, where they can be referenced and reused later. In this case, the pieces of the story are witnesses and exhibits, which will be entered into a spreadsheet and used to track the trajectory of the arguments as they progress.

The information in the spreadsheets will be used to generate different explanatory cards, similar to the card stacks found on Vox.com, Amico said. Exhibits and witnesses entered into the database will have their own cards explaining how and when they were used in the trial and how they relate to other exhibits or witness. These cards will be updated as the trial progresses, illustrating which people and items are more important to the case relative to others.

“It’s really easy, I think, to get lost and overwhelmed in big trials, and so what I wanted to do was think about a way to help people orient themselves — not just in the moment, but in where we’ve been and where we’re headed,” Amico said.

The Globe has already debuted a version of these explanatory cards. On the homepage of Bostonglobe.com and elsewhere, Amico and her team have placed a series of timeline cards that track the events of the trial day by day. On each is a headline, a short summary of the day’s events and a link to a story that describes the arguments in greater detail.

These cards were conceived as an efficient way to give Globe readers a quick chronology of the trial they can refer back to for context as the trial unfolds, Amico said. Each card is embeddable, and a couple of news organizations plan to begin using them soon, Amico said.

An example of Timeline Cards that provide a daily recap of the trial.

One of the timeline cards that provide a daily recap of the trial.

“We’ve had some interest from national news organizations who are interested in picking them up,” Amico said. “What I was thinking about when we started moving in that direction was that The Boston Globe had just incredible, incredible resources to cover this trial. And that we’d like to share as many of those resources with as many people as we can.”

Each timeline card also doubles as an audio player for “Finish Line,” a podcast on the events of the trial by The Boston Globe and public radio station WBUR. The podcast, which is hosted by Globe columnist Kevin Cullen and WBUR senior reporter David Boeri, is aimed at providing readers with the auditory equivalent of a seat in the courthouse — an intimate back-and-forth that captures the color, emotion and tiny details that might be excluded from a straightforward news report.

“If they were able to be there, and if they were to sit between Kevin and David, we want to capture some of the conversation that they might overhear,” Amico said.

The biggest hurdle in developing a coverage plan for the Tsarnaev trial was figuring out a cohesive design for the cards, Amico said. The designer for the project went through several drafts trying to strike a balance between too much information and not enough. An early timeline feature was deemed to be too distracting and cut from the final product in order to create a more concise chronology.

Amico expects the trial will last about six months, during which time The Globe will continue its daily recaps of the trial, Amico said. So far, most of The Globe’s audience has been focused on the paper’s live blog and daily stories, but Amico thinks the paper’s other digital offerings will become increasingly relevant to readers as the trial progresses.

“Realizing that this moment is more to us than opening statements, and it continues through closing statements, the need that we’re trying to address is what happens in those in-between times,” she said, “and how to make sense of them.”

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Homicide Watch seeks local owner for D.C. site

Homicide Watch

Days after the founders of Homicide Watch D.C. announced they were closing the site at the end of the year, they’re making another effort to keep it alive under local ownership.

Laura and Chris Amico, who founded Homicide Watch D.C. and sites in Trenton, Boston and Chicago, have put out a request for proposals seeking “anyone willing to commit to continuing the work” of the site.

There are a few conditions. Prospective owners must be willing to find an editor to direct operations and commit one full-time reporter to providing new content. They also have to agree to raise funds and apply for grants to keep the site afloat — the target is $60,000 by June 1.

The deadline is Dec. 5. Read more


Homicide Watch D.C. to close

Homicide Watch D.C., the website dedicated to tracking every killing in the nation’s capital, will close at the end of the year, co-founder Laura Amico said in an email to Poynter Wednesday.

The future of the site, which Laura Amico founded with her husband, Chris Amico, in September 2010, has been uncertain in recent months since Laura Amico accepted a job at The Boston Globe as news editor in charge of multimedia and data projects.

Chris Amico assumed responsibility for the project in the interim in the hopes they would find a permanent home for the site in the D.C. area, according to the email, which is below.

The closing of the site will not affect the operations of Homicide Watch Chicago, Homicide Watch Trenton or Homicide Watch Boston, Laura Amico said.

Here’s the full email:

After covering every homicide in Washington DC for more than four years, Homicide Watch D.C. will close January 1, 2015.

Chris and I launched Homicide Watch D.C. in September 2010 when we were D.C. residents. I ran the site, mostly out of D.C. Superior Court, for more than two years while I lived in D.C. For another two years, Chris and I have run the site from Boston, first while I completed a Nieman-Berkamn fellowship in journalism innovation and then after we stayed in the area.

While Homicide Watch D.C. has continued as a high-quality local news site, thanks in large part to our crew of very talented interns, the reality is that local news should be directed by people who live in the community. Without any local owners, we have decided that it is no longer feasible to continue publishing.

This means that homicides that are committed after Dec. 31 will not be covered on HWDC. We won’t add new arrests to the database, though we will regularly check the status of cases that remain open on Dec. 31 and update the database with relevant dismissals, acquittals, guilty pleas and convictions. We will also continue to moderate comments. In a few weeks we will begin publishing our final Year in Review series. It will, as always, be full of feature stories, guest columns, and a data-driven look back on 2014. But after Dec. 31 we will not have reporters at the courthouse and we will no longer be covering hearings or trials.

The closing of Homicide Watch D.C. does not impact the operations of our sister sites, Homicide Watch Chicago, run in partnership with the Chicago Sun-Times, Homicide Watch Trenton, in partnership with the Trentonian, and Homicide Watch Boston, in partnership with Northeastern University.

And we hope that the closure will not be permanent, that a local news organization, university, non-profit, or other group might want to bring the site back.

The D.C. audience is a valuable one: Over the past year, the site has averaged a half-million pageviews a month, with users spending around five minutes on site. People come back to the site again and again, and we regularly get emails thanking us for our coverage.

The cost of running of the site is, effectively, one full-time reporter. But these are selling points we’ve made to many D.C. organizations, time and again, and the reality is that no matter the audience or cost, this work is explicitly not a priority for many. We hope that will change. If it does, we look forward to seeing Homicide Watch D.C. thrive once again.

Recognitions for Homicide Watch D.C. include the Knight Award for public service journalism, ONA general excellence finalist, National Press Foundation- special citation, Sunlight Open Gov Champions, Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism notable entry.

Read more

Crime coverage in Chicago may be too good

Chicago is widely known as “Chiraq” or the “murder capital” even though its murder rate is much lower than in past years and in many other cities. Ironically this may be a function of local media’s attempts to do a better job reporting on homicides and crime

There was a time when reporters just didn’t cover many crime – or other — stories in the city’s low income, Black and Latino neighborhoods, noted veteran reporters at Poynter’s “Truth & Trust in the 21st Century” forum in Chicago Thursday. Now the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, DNAinfo and other media outlets make it a point to cover every murder in the city. But that means a lot of negative coverage about the city’s South and West sides, even as there are still relatively few other stories being reported on in these neighborhoods.


When you have 10 crime stories for every uplifting story like the Jackie Robinson West Little League team, noted DNAinfo reporter Darryl Holliday, “that’s not a good ratio.” “It says that’s all that’s happening, when that’s not the case,” continued Holliday, who is also co-founder of The Illustrated Press, which does journalism through comics.

But there are not necessarily bright lines between “good” and “bad” stories, countered author Alex Kotlowitz, pointing to the “This American Life” documentary on Chicago’s Harper High as an example.

The “centrifugal force of journalism,” as Kotlowitz described it, is to “understand why kids make the decisions they make … to understand what pushes and pulls people.”

Asiaha Butler  (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

Asiaha Butler (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

But panelist Asiaha Butler told Kotlowitz she was unable to listen the Harper High documentary all the way through, since she felt it portrayed an unrealistically negative and “dramatic” view of the neighborhood where she has lived most of her life and leads the Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.). She said the many untold stories in Englewood include the role of grandparents and great grandparents and the strong intergenerational structure that underpins the neighborhood.

“I’m not dodging bullets all the time,” said Butler, who with R.A.G.E. airs news on a website and a public access TV program. “You tell your own narrative, you don’t wait until the media comes.”

Like Butler, audience members at the Truth & Trust event implored reporters to do more to find and tell a wider range of stories.

“There are people who help people take out their garbage, who clean up the community … who help elders cross the street,” said Rondayle Sanders, a fifth-grader at the Bradwell School of Excellence whose class wrote an op-ed published in The Chicago Tribune presenting a fuller view of their neighborhood. “We want you to know more positive things about the South Side.”

When Sanders asked for advice in reporting, Butler suggested he start at his school “talking to the janitor, the lunch lady, hear their stories and highlight them.

In some ways it should be easier than ever for journalists to find and report a wide range of stories in different neighborhoods, since social media and new media have turned journalism from a specialized profession into an act practiced by the masses, as Kelly McBride, Poynter’s vice president of academic programs, put it.

McBride noted that these days rather than acting as gatekeepers of information and finding stories on their own, mainstream journalists are more often picking up on the stories being reported in blogs, community outlets and social media, “sorting through and magnifying” them.

But the financial crisis and budget cuts that have rocked the journalism world mean that even reporters with the best intentions struggle to get the time and space to tell the rich, multi-layered stories that do justice to a neighborhood.

“There’s no lack of these really great groups,” said Holliday. “But there are only so many journalists who can only do so many things.”

Linda Lutton (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

Linda Lutton (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

Kotlowitz noted that WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton, who was in the audience, was lucky to get substantial time to work on the Harper High story, a luxury relatively few full-time journalists are granted. Meanwhile from the audience veteran reporter Sally Duros pointed out that “good news stories are not news” or are viewed as “P.R.” by many.

Panelist Lolly Bowean, a Chicago Tribune reporter, noted that media outlets are financially and otherwise obligated to cover stories that draw readership and hence revenue. She said people often complain about the paper’s extensive coverage of rapper Chief Keef, but those are the stories that draw high numbers of views and comments.

“There has to be an appetite from the audience, from the public saying we need these stories,” said Bowean. “If there is no one paying 50 cents for that paper or going online to get it, then there is no us!”

Meanwhile panelists and audience members stressed that even as technology opens up possibilities for new and innovative ways to tell stories, there is still a crucial role for old-fashioned watchdog, accountability journalism. Reporters noted that police officers are often reticent with information about cases, and that in Chicago only about a quarter of murders are ever officially solved. The “triangle” of relationships between police, community members and journalists — as audience member David Schaper of NPR put it — is typically tense and fraught.

Reporters need to scrutinize official statistics and reports, the journalists noted, applying the old adage “if your mother says she loves you, check it out” to information from the police.

There is clearly no easy answer to the myriad of challenges and contradictions discussed at the Truth & Trust gathering, which was hosted by CBS 2 Chicago anchor Jim Williams and also featured Tracy Swartz, reporter for the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye tabloid edition and Michael Lansu, an editor of the Chicago Sun-Times’ Homicide Watch project.

But the bottom line is that in order to achieve nuanced, rich coverage of neighborhoods that goes beyond the latest crime statistics, key factors are just that — truth and trust. Read more


Future of Homicide Watch D.C. uncertain as Amico joins Boston Globe

In 2012, Laura Amico got a call that changed a lot of things — her city, her work and, eventually, her future

Amico, who lived and worked in Washington, D.C., had been selected to be a Nieman-Berkman fellow at Harvard University, where she would research how the Web could be applied to criminal justice journalism. She was eager to go, but she knew moving to Cambridge for a year would mean leaving behind Homicide Watch, a project she and her husband Chris Amico created together to catalog every single homicide in the D.C. area. She didn’t want the site to wither.

“This thing that I’d built from nothing really had a place in the community,” Amico said.

Laura Amico (submitted photo)

Laura Amico (submitted photo)

She and her husband — who eventually made the move to Cambridge permanent — raised more than $47,000 on Kickstarter and were able to hire student journalists to keep the site running in their absence. The Kickstarter money ran out last year, but Homicide Watch is now supported by licensing the site’s template to other news organizations, such as the Chicago Sun-Times. Their project continued.

But earlier this month, Amico got another call that would change the fate of her bootstrapped project. The Boston Globe offered her a job as news editor in charge of multimedia and data projects. She accepted the offer and is now facing the same questions she was two years ago: with her new duties starting Aug. 20, she needs to find somebody who can take over stewardship of Homicide Watch. Her husband will assume her responsibilities for the short term, but ultimately they want to find a permanent home for the site in the D.C. area, where the site’s community is.

“It just doesn’t feel fair for us to be running it from afar in Boston,” Amico said.

She and her husband are currently in conversation with two partners who would each be good hosts for the site, but Amico declined to name them because she didn’t want to jeopardize ongoing negotiations. If they can’t find a host in the coming months, Amico says they’ll consider shutting it down.

“It’s the worst-case scenario because we know it’s something that’s very important to the D.C. community,” she said.

Amico and her husband will retain the rights to license the site’s template to other news organizations.

She isn’t the first media entrepreneur to struggle with relinquishing oversight of a project. In 2008, David Cohn created Spot.Us, a crowdfunding site for journalists. When the site was acquired by American Public Media in 2011, Cohn remembers feeling excitement mixed with anxiety. He wanted the site to grow under new management, but it was difficult to sever ties and watch another organization take control.

Eventually, he came to the realization that he needed to move on and do other things — and he says Amico and her husband should do the same, even if it comes at the expense of Homicide Watch.

“Sometimes that is the best thing for people like Laura who are creatively ambitious and want to do new things,” Cohn said.

Around the time she and her husband started Homicide Watch, Amico says they were counseled to make sure they were prepared to wind their involvement in the site down. Amico didn’t have an exit strategy because the day-to-day operations of the site were fulfilling, she said. But now, as she and her husband get ready to give up control of a project they started, she’s confident that it doesn’t need them anymore. And that makes her proud, she said.

“I know that it can go on without me.”

  Read more


Creating new forms of journalism that put readers in charge

It’s been 20 years since the Internet began to disrupt journalism. It has turned our business upside down, but it’s also given us a new canvas to invent different ways of presenting information. It’s time to start reimagining the news story.

Last week, four of us gathered in a windowless conference room in New York to explore what we can do to nudge things along.

The participants were the creators of three projects that rely on new forms:

  • Laura and Chris Amico, the founders of Homicide Watch, the highly acclaimed reporting venture that tracks homicide victims and suspects in Washington, Chicago and Trenton, N.J.

All three projects use a structured approach to present content in different ways. The animated diagrams of Connected China show you the family and government relationships that determine who has clout in that country; the lists and maps of Homicide Watch show who has been killed and where; the PolitiFact report cards reveal which politicians have earned the most Pants on Fires.

Homicide Watch, Connected China and PolitiFact are known as structured journalism because the articles contain fields of information that can be sorted and tallied. They provide readers with many ways to explore the content, both through individual articles and the data the articles create. Structured journalism puts the reader in charge.

“It’s a way of reporting that builds a comprehensive reporter’s notebook and then opens that notebook up to the public,” said Laura Amico. “There is no ‘old news’ in structured journalism, there is cumulative news. It is reporting that increases in value over time.”

There are a few other ventures that are experimenting with similar new forms, such as Circa, the app that atomizes the news into digestible chunks. But by and large, story forms are stuck in the past. We want more news organizations to experiment with structured journalism.

We began our New York meeting by trying to understand why media companies have largely failed to take advantage of the incredible power of the Web and mobile devices. We identified four forces that have stymied innovation:

  • Content Management Systems. They are designed to convert old media into new media and they provide little flexibility to experiment with new journalistic forms.

  • Newsroom culture. The rhythm in most newsrooms is based on a well-established work flow that produces predictable content. It’s not easy to suggest a wholesale change.

  • Product managers on the business side. They’re accustomed to selling the old recipe and often seem perplexed by new approaches.

  • Editors/news directors. They’ve got other priorities — such as having to choose people for another round of layoffs — and often don’t have the resources for a new venture.

Chua said editors need to get beyond the idea that “what’s new is what’s valuable. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s accumulated information and knowledge that is valuable.”

We then turned to the need for evangelism. What can the four of us do to get more news organizations to try innovative story forms?

We agreed to host a mini-conference in September before the Online News Association meeting in Chicago. It will allow us to demonstrate the promise of new story forms for industry leaders and innovators.

In the meantime, we’ll be writing and speaking about the new forms and encouraging organizations to do more experimentation. We invite you to join in these conversations by sharing your projects, ideas and hopes. #structuredjournalism

Bill Adair, the creator of PolitiFact, is the Knight Chair for Computational Journalism at Duke University and an adjunct faculty member at Poynter. Read more

Screen shot 2014-02-20 at 12.55.28 PM

For 7 years, L.A. Times’ Homicide Report has wrested stories from grim data

We’ve heard a lot about Chris and Laura Amico’s Homicide Watch – and for good reason. The site tracks homicides in Washington, D.C., (and, as of just over a year ago, Chicago and Trenton) from police report to conviction, giving victims and communities attention and coverage that local papers don’t have space or staff to.

It’s a valuable resource, the success of which has inspired other news outlets to embark on similar projects. But Homicide Watch had its own inspiration: the Los Angeles Times’ Homicide Report.

“When we started brainstorming Homicide Watch in 2009, we tried to draw lessons from existing crime mapping and homicide tracking projects,” Chris Amico says. “The two that always stick out are the L.A. Times’ Homicide Report and the Oakland Tribune’s Not Just a Number (we also drew ideas from the L.A. Times War Dead project). They really captured the human impact of violent crime and used data effectively to tell a larger story … They do great work.”

One big difference between the two: Homicide Watch is an independent startup; Homicide Report has the institutional support of the L.A. Times. Increasingly so – the paper recently invested more into the project. A dedicated, full-time reporter, Nicole Santa Cruz, was hired in June 2013. Last month, the Times upgraded and redesigned the site and kicked off its relaunch with a front-page story about Westmont, which has the dubious honor of being the most deadly neighborhood in Los Angeles County.

Were it not for HR’s data, L.A. Times assistant managing editor Megan Garvey says, “I don’t think we would’ve picked Westmont, honestly, I mean … it wasn’t even like it stood out to us in our heads.”

It did stand out in the data. Data team member Ken Schwencke ran several analyses of HR’s numbers to find LA County’s most deadly neighborhood. Over and over again, the 1.85 square mile unincorporated area between Inglewood and Watts came up.

“Every kind of piece of analysis I did pointed at Westmont,” he says.

Though the area was under-covered by both law enforcement and the media, its residents were all too aware of its violence. When reporting out the story, there was no shortage of people to talk to about the toll it had on their lives.

“Everywhere [Santa Cruz] turned there was someone who had something to say about what it was like to live there,” Garvey says. And in the story’s comments section, “people said ‘yeah, this has been going on for years but no one really pays attention to us. We’re sort of lost down here.’”

Covering those “lost” stories was the reason why crime reporter Jill Leovy created the Homicide Report in 2007. There simply wasn’t enough room in the newspaper to cover every single homicide in Los Angeles County, so only the ones deemed significant or newsworthy were mentioned. Homicide Report was a space to give every homicide its due. No one would be forgotten. And readers would be able to truly see the scope of violence in their city. It quickly became one of the paper’s most-read blogs and remains its most popular data project today.

Leovy stepped down after a year, but her passion has been passed on to her successors. It has to be: with 10 million people in Los Angeles County, it’s a big job, even though the numbers of homicides is almost half what it was when the blog began. Garvey has edited the blog since late 2008, often in her spare time.

“Watching reality TV and plugging in homicide data,” she says.

Last year, she told L.A. Times editor Davan Maharaj “either we need to invest in it or we need to stop it.” Maharaj chose the former, and Santa Cruz joined the team.

“She hit the ground running,” Garvey says. “She’s been out all over the community”

In fact, Santa Cruz was absent for the first half of our interview because she had to rush to the scene of a homicide (Robert Leonard Brewer, 21, stabbed to death in – yes – Westmont).

“Honestly there is not ever ever a typical day,” Santa Cruz says when she finally gets the chance to call in. One thing seems to remain the same: “I am not in the office very often.”

She says the hardest part of the job how big her coverage area is, both in population and area. Santa Cruz doesn’t just report out homicides as they happen – she meets with community leaders and law enforcement, goes to vigils and courtrooms, talks to gang interventionists and grieving families.

Santa Cruz has found those moments to be some of the most rewarding parts of the job, though they are, of course, always mired in tragedy.

“I’m really fortunate that I can walk up to someone’s house and they let me into their living room and they make me a cup of tea and they tell me these things about someone they really care about,” she says. “You’re really going into a community that is under-covered and under-served and bringing these stories to light.”

Homicide Report started as a blog. A simple map was soon added, and, after a 14-month dormancy, it was revived as a database in 2010, built by Schwencke. He also built the newest iteration, teaming up with designer Lily Mihalik. The map is now on the top of every page and the database can be filtered by more than one category at a time, which makes analyzing Homicide Report’s seven years’ of data much easier and shows off how valuable data-driven beat coverage can be.

“What we’re trying to do is create this really rich database that allows people to learn about the community on the whole,” Garvey says.

The blog posts have changed, too. The sidebar now has links to every story about the case, from the homicide to any arrests or convictions. Before, the post about the initial homicide would be updated with any developments, but that post was usually long-buried – it often takes years for homicide cases to go to trial.

Now, “you string together the information in a way that you’re providing a full account and not having to fish around for whatever happened,” Garvey says.

“You have all the information about one person’s death available on one page,” Schwencke adds.

It isn’t just readers who benefit from Homicide Report’s information. Some reporters have also integrated it into their articles. Garvey says she’d like to see it become “part of the DNA of reporting in the newsroom and not just a set-aside project. Have it inform how we operate as journalists … We’re not all the way there on that but I think we’ve made a lot of progress.”

Sure enough, one recent story used Homicide Report data to show how rare murders were in Burbank. Ruben Vives also uses its data to give more context to his reports.

But then, Vives knows quite a bit about the Report’s usefulness — he used to write it.

“That was my first reporting gig with the L.A. Times,” Vives says. “I got very addicted to covering every murder, just because one had hit close to home [Vives' uncle was murdered] and two, I just felt like it was an important thing that we needed to do as a paper.”

Vives says he learned a lot from the beat, a trial-by-fire boot camp in conducting interviews, building sources, following tips and just getting familiar with a coverage area through on-the-ground, shoe leather reporting. Those skills have served him well in the years since: Vives now covers southeastern Los Angeles for the paper, an area with which his time at the Report made him well acquainted.

And, oh yeah – one of Vives’ first big stories after moving off the Report was the city of Bell and its ridiculously high salaries for city officials. You may have heard of it: the series won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2011. (Leovy’s no slouch, either. Her book, Homicide Report: Understanding Murder in America, goes on sale in July.)

Homicide Report also shows how news outlets can engage with the communities they serve. Its comments section is pre-moderated, but both Garvey and Vives say they tried to be as hands-off as possible.

“This is a really raw subject, a really awful subject,” Garvey says. “What we want to do is create a conversation about these issues.”

“It shows people just by seeing the numbers and by seeing those red dots all over this one specific area, it just makes you aware of ‘wow, I had no idea how bad things were there,’” Vives says.

In the future, the Homicide Report will include data going back to 2000, giving reporters and readers even more context. Garvey also wants to find more ways to make the stories as comprehensive as possible – from the crime to the conviction. The redesign does that already, but keeping tabs on so many cases is difficult. The initial homicide information comes from the police department and coroner’s office, but there isn’t the same clearinghouse for arrests and trials. For now, Garvey says readers often help out, sending them updates. Schwencke is looking for ways to link homicides through police report and district attorney case numbers.

But their biggest hope for the future is that the Times continues its investment in the project.

“My dream for the Homicide Report is that in 20 years the L.A. Times is still doing it,” Garvey says. “And there are a lot fewer homicides.” Read more


Homicide Watch reaches fundraising goal, but how viable is its business model long-term?

Homicide Watch | Kickstarter | New York Times
With just three days left in its month-long Kickstarter campaign, Homicide Watch has reached the goal of $40,000 in pledges from more than 1,000 people to sustain the site for another year.

The Kickstarter campaign crossed its fundraising goal.

Since its launch in 2010, Homicide Watch has used a database as well as news articles to track homicide cases and victims in Washington. It was run solely by a two-person team, Laura and Chris Amico. The new funding will pay stipends for a “student reporting lab” of interns to run the innovative news site, as Laura Amico becomes a Nieman-Berkman Fellow. Amico writes: Read more

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Homicide Watch faces uncertain future, established news beats as databases

Homicide Watch | Kickstarter | Nieman Lab
Homicide Watch, the news startup that tracks homicide cases in Washington, D.C., through data and reporting, is taking a break.

The wife-husband team that founded it, Laura and Chris Amico, are moving to Massachusetts next week for Laura’s one-year Nieman fellowship at Harvard. The site may find some new life through a Kickstarter fundraising campaign that would pay interns to staff it.

Either way, the project has made its mark. Read more


Clay Shirky: Washington Post should emulate Homicide Watch D.C.

“Homicide Watch provides far broader crime coverage than the Post, coverage of clear value to the community, and does so in a way that makes that value cumulative, rather than just spinning out updates on the hamster wheel. In comparison with the Post, though, the most important thing about Homicide Watch is that they do all this with two employees: Laura Amico as the editorial voice, and her husband, Chris, who developed the platform and works part time.

“When a two-person outfit can cover such a critical issue better than the reigning local paper, with much less overhead, it’s evidence that doing more with less is possible, but it’s also evidence that this requires far more than reducing expenses. Homicide Watch isn’t just a tight operation (though it is that); it’s a brilliant re-imagining of what it means to be a news outlet.”

Clay Shirky


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