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. Read more


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. 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. 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. 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.

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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. 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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