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Change the way crime is covered. Create a reporting lab within Homicide Watch DC to cover every murder in Washington for one year.
Change the way crime is covered. Create a reporting lab within Homicide Watch DC to cover every murder in Washington for one year.
1,110 backers pledged $47,450 to help bring this project to life.

One Week Left to Save Homicide Watch DC

Three weeks ago we came to you with a plea: help us keep Homicide Watch alive by donating to our kickstarter campaign.

Your response has been overwhelming. More than 600 people have donated. Some as little as one dollar, others as much as 500 dollars.

Here’s why it matters: In the three weeks since we had to shutter, Antoinette Mitchell, Bidley Warren and Stephan Manuel Pool have been killed. In DC.

At Homicide Watch we believe that Mitchell’s, Warren’s, and Pool’s lives matter. That all our lives matter. And that how people live and die in DC matters to every one of us.

There are five other names you won’t find on Homicide Watch DC either: the names of suspects arrested in murder cases since we shuttered. And their stories matter, too. Because how we dispense of justice, finding defendants guilty or innocent, matters to every one of us, too. Unless we bring back Homicide Watch DC, the stories of these five suspects will not be told. We will not know how, or whether, justice is served in DC.

If we are to do this, to tell these stories, we have to raise $13,000 in one week. We’ve already raised $27,000, but here’s the tricky thing about Kickstarter: if we don’t raise all the funds, your donation is returned to you and Homicide Watch gets nothing.

So while it’s incredible that together we’ve raised $27,000, we need to make a final push to make sure we cross that $40,000 line. Otherwise the site stays closed.

If I haven’t convinced you that Homicide Watch is worth funding, consider this appeal from Clay Shirky, who calls Homicide Watch "one of the most important experiments in improving journalism in the era of the internet."

And if you’re still reading, and you’re still not convinced, consider Antoinette Mitchell. Consider Bidley Warren. Consider Stephan Manuel Pool.

Seven days. $13,000. Stand with us in saying: Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.

New Reward: Get Our Data!

Back in June, we published a six-month review of homicides in 2012: Decreases in Gun, Domestic Violence, at Forefront of 6-month Homicide Decline.

The story, which included a map and summation of half a year's stats, took us about four hours to complete. We never had to file a FOIA. We just asked questions and our database started pouring out answers.

  • How many murders have happened this year, compared to this time last year?
  • Who were the youngest and oldest victims?
  • How many cases have at least one suspect under arrest?
  • What is the racial and gender makeup of victims (and suspects)?
  • Where did most homicides happen?

These are questions every news organization should be able to answer. We collect this information as part of our reporting process and store it in our custom-built database. Now you can use the same data.

For every victim and suspect, we collect a name, age, race and gender. For victims, we also record a date of death, homicide method (shooting, stabbing, etc), place of death (hospital or at the scene) and incident location. For suspects, we record arrest dates and case status.

If you work for a news organization, think about how long it would take to gather all of this information.

We'll export the data at your request, so you can ask in September (when this campaign ends) or in January (if you want two calendar years) or any time later.

What Students Learn Working on Homicide Watch DC

Meet Lindsey Anderson, a recent graduate of American University, now working for the Associated Press in Boston. In her senior year, after writing about Homicide Watch DC for her college newspaper, she asked if she could volunteer on the project as an intern.

In the video above, she explains what she learned and what the project has meant for her and her career.

Journalism Needs Teaching Hospitals, and Reporting Clinics

The Knight Foundation recently called on journalism schools to create "teaching hospitals" where young journalists would be guided by seasoned professionals and academics.

"At its root, this model requires top professionals in residence at universities," the foundation said in an open letter to universities. "It also focuses on applied research, as scholars help practitioners invent viable forms of digital news that communities need to function in a democratic frame."

This is encouraging. We've worked with a handful of students over the past two years, and the experience has been meaningful on both sides.

Pushing this metaphor a little farther, Homicide Watch DC isn't a hospital. It's a small, highly-focused reporting clinic built around data-driven beat reporting.

Students working on Homicide Watch DC won't just study journalism, they'll do real reporting, with tight deadlines and serious editing. Among the skills they'll learn and practice:

  • reporting on the criminal justice system, including how a case moves through the court system
  • how to find and use public documents
  • how to cover breaking news
  • how to maintain a blog
  • how to build an online community, including interacting with an audience and promoting content through social media
  • investigative reporting, including the use of social media as a reporting tool
  • data-driven reporting and data visualization

We've also been working to extract lessons from our work (this is part of Laura's fellowship) and we expect students will do the same. With no resources to spare, we're interested in expanding what works and dropping what doesn't.

How and why Homicide Watch is different from most crime coverage

Homicide Watch covers every murder, from crime to conviction, and organizes information around victims and suspects

We follow an "open notebook" policy, meaning almost everything we use in our reporting process ends up on the site: legal documents, a calendar of upcoming court dates, raw press releases and wanted posters are all available for readers.

We make an extra effort to bring in the voices of those affected by violent crime. Families of victims and suspects can write guest posts and share their experiences directly, and we highlight the best comments we receive.

For more on how Homicide Watch operates, listen to this interview with On the Media or watch the video below from the Sunlight Foundation.

Special thanks to the Sunlight Foundation for letting us reuse some of their b-roll in our own video.