Homicide Watch DC map

The US crime site maps and marks every homicide in Washington DC

US site Homicide Watch DC, which tracks and records every homicide case which occurs in Washington DC, has launched a Kickstarter campaign for funding to establish a "student reporting lab" in a bid to secure its continued running over the next year.

Homicide Watch DC was set up in September 2010 by Laura Amico, in a bid to "build one of the nation’s most comprehensive public resources on violent crime". Today the site includes a database of victims and suspects, tracking cases "from crime to conviction" as well as mapping cases geographically.

Now Amico has announced that she has been selected as a Nieman-Berkman fellow and will be studying journalism innovation at Harvard, along with her husband Chris who also works on the site.

This "means it is time for me to move on", she says in a post on the site announcing the development.

"Together we have changed the face of crime reporting and told the world that the common news values for violent crime reporting are wrong. We have said, together, with one voice, that how people live and die here, and how those deaths are recognised, matters to every one of us."

According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, "a licensing deal with a local news organisation that would have taken over operation of the site" while they are away, "fell through at the last minute".

So in a bid to keep the site going a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to crowdfund $40,000 to take on paid interns to continue to run the site.

"We want to train journalism students in crime reporting through use of the Homicide Watch platform, and we need your help," the Kickstarter project page states.

As well as helping to keep the site going, this one-year "student reporting lab", will also "provide a valuable service for students as well", she added.

"Students will learn reporting skills including writing breaking news and feature stories, advanced data collection, analysis and visualisation, audience engagement and more."

And Amico will remain on hand to help guide the interns "through the one-year experiment".

"Chris and I intend to work with the students daily", she told Journalism.co.uk by email. "Some days this may just be a 'good job' check in. Other days it could be intensive editing sessions, or conversations about editorial approach and planning.

"We know that students on Homicide Watch are learning a lot at once-- writing, reporting, editing, community moderation, the criminal justice system-- we'll be there to help them with all of this."

The 30-day Kickstarter campaign launched on Tuesday (14 August) and at the time of writing has been pledged just over $4,000.

Rewards for backers range from a copy of the site's 2011 Year in Review in the form of an ebook for pledges of $20, to a class or lecture for an audience of the backers' choice for the higher pledges of $5,000 or more.

If funding a student reporting lab isn't possible, then a local news organisation, university, or another group is going to have to step up to the plateLaura Amico, Homicide Watch DC
Amico added: "We hope that the greatest reward, though, is knowing that you’re saying with us 'we care'. That every life and death matters. That how our criminal justice system responds to violent crime matters. That together we insist: Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case."

If the campaign fails to raise the necessary funds "Homicide Watch DC will shut down until someone agrees to take it on", Amico told Journalism.co.uk.

"While Chris and I can remain involved, it takes a locally-based reporter to manage the daily operations. If funding a student reporting lab isn't possible, then a local news organisation, university, or another group is going to have to step up to the plate."

But expansion plans remain on the horizon for Homicide Watch, with "a new Homicide Watch site launching in a city other than DC very soon".

The site is also working on proposals with two other cities, and Amico added that "since the news yesterday, several others have gotten in touch about starting Homicide Watch sites".

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