behind the news

Homicide Watch revs back up

Kickstarter cash in hand, the site will restart this fall as a student-reporting project
September 11, 2012

College students who want to learn crime reporting, 21st-century style, from two pioneers of the genre should get their résumés to pronto.

That would be Laura Amico, of course, who with her husband, Chris, built Homicide Watch DC into a startup sensation in the nation’s capital, and then watched nervously as it nearly fell apart last summer when they were unable to find a newsroom that was willing to take the site over. (For more on that, see “Murder Inc.” from the September/October issue of CJR.)

But the Kickstarter campaign they launched in August worked, and now Laura and Chris have nearly $47,000 (and counting, with 54 hours to go) to hire two or three interns to run the site during the fall semester. (The details are still being worked out, but the tentative plan is to hire new interns for the spring semester.) The Amicos will train the students, then mentor them from Boston this year, where Laura is on a Nieman-Berkman fellowship. They hope to have the site, which has been on hiatus since last month, live again by October 1.

The student-reporters will need to be in DC, since much of the work that Homicide Watch does involves coverage of the district’s courts. But Laura says she welcomes applications from beyond Washington: “We’ve already been contacted by a number of students, including one from Oklahoma who said she had followed Homicide Watch and wants to be a part of it.”

The students will be paid what amounts to about $10 an hour, though whether that is on an hourly basis or a weekly stipend is still being decided. Laura says she will have “at least” daily check-ins with each intern. “Then either Chris or I will be available all day to answer questions,” she says. “We will play an assistant-editor/managing-editor-type role.”

Looking ahead, the Amicos want to get Homicide Watch to the point where it is self-sustaining financially, and keep it as a student-reporting project. Toward that end, they plan to hire someone soon to manage ad sales, and will continue to look for a professional partner—either a newsroom or a university, or both. “We don’t want to be back in the same position next year,” Laura says.

Sign up for CJR's daily email
Brent Cunningham is CJR’s managing editor.