Where killings go unpunished: New WashPost probe allows others to access information

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How can you avoid prosecution for a killing? Sometimes it's geography.

This morning, The Washington Post, after a two-year effort analyzing 52,000 homicides in 50 U.S. cities, released a story and a database showing where in America killings go unpunished.

"There is no greater crime you can commit against another person than to take another's life," says Wesley Lowery, who spoke with me ahead of publication. He and a team of Post journalists — among them, deputy investigative editor David Fallis, investigative reporter Kimbriell Kelly and database reporter Steven Rich — realized one thing at the outset; "We can't evaluate something if we can't measure it."

Kelly spoke of haggling with police departments to get the kind of information the FBI doesn't include, such as where the killings occur. Presented with the processing of that kind of information, Kelly recalled a meeting with senior Indianapolis police officials: "It was like they were looking at it for the first time."

A twist: the data from this effort — data that goes far beyond uniform crime statistics released annually by the FBI — can be downloaded and used by all. Yes, including The New York Times. (This is an encouraging trend in the industry, and such data-sharing is a key principle of sites such as ProPublica and the Texas Tribune).

Kelly, Rich and Fallis emphasized that the Post effort got cooperation from all 50 police departments they contacted, and added that the data collection will expand as stories inspired by this data roll out over the next year. Fallis and Lowery see this project as an extension of the team's 2016 Pulitzer-winning effort that tracked victims of police shootings nationwide.

The team notes that that previous effort is still ongoing, as is its database. With 439 police killings as of Wednesday, the database appears set to register 1,000 killings this year, Fallis said.

Quick hits

KNOCK KNOCK: Public radio is taking a page from political campaigns, going door-to-door for donors. In carefully selected neighborhoods in 14 cities so far, the door-knockers are hunting monthly donors, Nicole Wallace writes for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

YES, WE DID: Facebook acknowledged that it shared user data with four Chinese companies, including one marked by the U.S. as a national security threat. U.S. officials want to know if personal data about tens of millions of Americans ended up on Chinese government servers. Facebook said it would wind down its data-sharing this week with Huawei, under investigation of breaking American trade controls by dealing with Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

NEW WSJ EDITOR: Matt Murray, No. 2 to Gerard Baker, will take Baker’s spot. Baker will work on hosting conferences and events, and television presenting, the newspaper said. Here’s the press release.

UNMASKING A BIGOT, GETTING SUSPENDED BY TWITTER: Her name is Amy Mekelburg. She spews hate toward Muslims in a wildly popular Twitter account followed by Sean Hannity, Roseanne Barr and the personal account of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. When HuffPost reporter Luke O’Brien revealed that Mekelburg was behind the account, the death threats poured in, and fans of the bigoted site beseeched Twitter to suspend O’Brien. Which it, surprisingly, did, for 24 hours, shedding light on the outsourced way that Twitter tries to handle such things and how easily it can be manipulated. Maybe the Twitter we have now — the one swamped by harassers, trolls and hatemongers — is exactly the one the company wants,” writes Nick Baumann. (Below, via a Twitter post, is one threat O’Brien endured).

FIGHTING NEWS FATIGUE: Seven in 10 Americans say they are overwhelmed and exhausted by the news cycle, Pew Research reported. Your Mediawire columnist believes that successful editors have a responsibility to fight this by broadening coverage to show how journalism makes a positive change. We’ve reported on efforts by the NYT and by the Guardian to promote positive change-makers — and I am experimenting myself with a weekly effort. Editors, let us know what you are doing to combat news fatigue. Email me at dbeard@poynter.org.

WHOOPS: Fox News apologized for making up a characterization of the Philadelphia Eagles kneeling during the National Anthem. That gave the impression the President Trump was “uninviting” the Super Bowl champions for that reason. In fact, the footage was shot during a pre-game prayer — and no Eagles players had kneeled during the anthem. “Keep carrying his (Trump’s) water to sow division while misrepresenting Christian men,” Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long told Fox News.

VACATION TIME: At an impasse with his new boss, who has spiked six of his seven latest cartoons, nationally recognized Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers has gone on vacation "until issues with the Post-Gazette are resolved." Locals and cartoonists nationwide have supported Rogers and have said the spiking of his cartoons amounts to censorship by suddenly aggressive pro-Trump management. "I love what I do," Rogers tweeted Wednesday morning. "Now, more than ever, I believe in the power of satire and the public dialogue that it can create. Thank you for being part of that dialogue."

KREMLIN JUSTICE: His lawyer says a Ukrainian reporter was doing his job, that Russia, for political reasons, manufactured a case against him. A Russian court sentenced Roman Sushchenko to 12 years in a maximum security prison on Monday after convicting him of spying, Reuters reported. His lawyer says he will appeal.

REMOVED FROM THE PEOPLE?: That’s what journalists are, Sarah Jones asserts for CJR. In making her case, Jones shows how it happened.

What we’re reading

AIN’T GONNA PLAY TRUMP CITY: The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers agree — whoever wins the NBA championship won’t go to the White House, the AP reports. “I think the President has made it pretty clear he’s going to try to divide us, all of us in this country, for political gain,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “We all look forward to the day when we can...celebrate Americans for their achievement, their good deeds.”

DON'T MOCK JOHN McCAIN: The White House strategist who mocked the dying war hero and onetime GOP presidential candidate John McCain had her comeuppance: She was let go.

TIKI BARS ARE BACK: Were they imagined oases during Cold War fears of nuclear destruction? A “South Pacific”-themed touch of exoticism as cookie-cutter houses sprang up in postwar suburbia? Or, for my dad, a Pacific WWII veteran, an approximation of the different world he ended up in, a way to communicate the good parts of a horrid experience in shorthand, through sugary drinks with umbrellas? In any event, those supposed Polynesian-inspired bars are back. By Kara Newman for The Atlantic.

Also on Poynter.org

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And have a good Wednesday. I’ll be off. The Mediawire will be back Friday morning.

Editor's note: This newsletter has been updated to include Rob Rogers' announcement that he's taking some time off.

 

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