Laura Norton Amico spent the summer trying to find a newsroom in Washington, DC, to take over Homicide Watch, the crime-news site that she and her husband, Chris, built from inchoate idea to startup sensation. Two years of long days had taken a toll, and Amico needed to catch her breath. She was starting a Nieman fellowship at Harvard in the fall, so the clock was ticking.
After moving to DC in 2009, Amico, who had been a crime reporter in Santa Rosa, CA, found the murder coverage in the nation’s capital lacking. Most killings weren’t covered at all, and there was little follow-up on those that were. So she created a site that tracks the story of every murder from beginning to end, as well as gives friends and family a place to vent and honor the victims. Homicide Watch reimagined the crime beat, and soon became a darling of both the press and the public, with 300,000-plus pageviews a month.
That was then. By August, after knocking on most every professional and academic journalism door in town, a frustrated Amico had no takers, and she announced that Homicide Watch might have to go on hiatus.
It’s unclear why newsrooms that had celebrated the site’s success weren’t interested in deploying it themselves—especially when, Amico insists, a number of media companies outside DC are eager to license the HW platform. In fact, she and Chris announced their first client, The Journal-Register newspaper chain, this month.
In a final bid to keep the site going in their absence, Team Amico launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $40,000 to hire five interns and turn the site into a student-reporting project. “We’d serve as mentors,” Amico said.
As CJR went to press, the campaign had raised $15,000 (with 22 days to go; check CJR.org for an update), and Amico was off to Harvard, still hopeful. “I see 300,000 pageviews,” she said, “and I think there is something going on here that is bigger than just us.”Brent Cunningham is CJRs managing editor.