Watching homicides and bicycles

Homicide Watch tracks every homicide in Washington, posting news reports and court records and hearing dates and verdicts and sentences. Its motto: “Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.”

Homicide Watch founders Laura and Chris Amico believe that the database and articles can “improve one community’s understanding of violent crime and raise the level of conversation about homicide.” They kept Homicide Watch going for two years without any funding, and now have raised $47,344 (and counting) on Kickstarter to hire interns to carry on the work for another year.

Though Homicide Watch didn’t get foundation grants, David Carr noted in the New York Times that organizations getting “innovation in journalism” funding include “tiny experimental outfits named The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.” The Post is getting money for government accountability reporting and the Times is funded to cover ethnic and prison issues.

Not that all the money goes to big, for-profit organizations — I work for the Twin Cities Daily Planet, a small, non-profit news organization that has survived thanks to the generosity of foundations. Our beat is covering under-represented, under-reported communities, and we hope to connect and empower people by giving them the tools to tell their own stories as well as a place to discover and share local stories.

While we are more likely to cover bicycles and schools than homicides, we share a conviction that local communities and local news are crucial to the fabric of democracy. That may sound high-falutin, but it keeps us going, working to stir up conversations over bike routes and low-income rentals and community gardens, as well as making connections between local and global news.

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