Murder is way down, but the Times has decided to reactivate for the web the compendium of local murders that reporter Jill Leovy launched as a blog in 2007. When Leovy started the Homicide Report, she was covering the murder and mayhem beat and wanted a place to be able to record something about every victim, no matter how faceless they were. She told me at the time, "This is my way of throwing a stone at the monster, and I hope people at least glance at it. At the very least, seeing all the homicides arrayed in a list like this will give readers a much more real view of who is dying, and how often. And for me, it means no longer having to confront weeping mothers who say their sons' deaths were never covered by the press." She lasted about a year, then stopped shortly after Los Angeles Magazine profiled her — emotionally drained by trying to connect with every single LA County homicide victim. The paper passed the blog around to junior Metro reporters, but ratings dropped without Leovy. The editors suspended the blog within several months. Chronicling murders has recently been a backburner data project at the Times.
Now the old idea of turning murder victims into a narrative of sorts is getting renewed attention in the newsroom, per this morning's memo from Assistant Managing Editor for Digital News Megan Garvey.
Sent: Monday, March 18, 2013 10:48 AM
Subject: Opening: Reporter -- The Homicide Report
To: The Staff
From: Megan Garvey, Assistant Managing Editor
The website is seeking to reinvigorate the Homicide Report, one of the L.A. Times’ marquee online public service projects. This reporter will have a key role in the report’s next phase.
The Homicide Report began in 2007 as a blog written by Jill Leovy, who set out with the initial mission of covering each homicide in the county for a year.
In 2010, after a 14-month hiatus, the original blog was turned into a database with a comprehensive interactive map. In all, HR has provided details about more than 4,300 killings since January 2007, ranging from the basic details to in-depth reports.
The ideal candidate will bring keen storytelling skills and an ability to work with data to find themes and meaning. An interest in crime, detectives and the effects of violence on society is required; experience in law enforcement and court reporting is a plus. Tenacious reporting will be needed to keep the report complete and current.
The Homicide Report presents rich opportunities for multimedia storytelling. This reporter will also work closely with photographers to document killings and their aftermath in our neighborhoods. This position is open to candidates from within the newsroom.
Sounds like a challenge you’d like to meet? Contact Assistant Managing Editor for Digital News Megan Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of Leovy at a crime scene: Los Angeles Magazine