Saturday, June 20, 2009

Homicide reporting: Some Scenes I Have Seen.

The most memorable reporting I did at the NY Daily News was on murders. In some ways I feel that crime reporting is journalism at its most elemental and crucial.

Local tragedy and violence doesn't make front pages but it has tremendous importance for people in the communities affected - more so perhaps than foreign wars and national politics.

As a reporter just starting out, knocking on doors and talking to family members and neighbors of victims, showed me how important it is for people to feel that their sorrow is not disconnected from the world around them. That it has meaning and shape beyond their house or block.

Those family members were usually so eager to tell me what their child meant to the those in his or her life and how this will affect them. People always wanted to make sure I knew - and that the pubic knew - that their loved ones were separate from the violence that ended their lives. That dying by the sword didn't mean they lived by it.

I have long thought the NY Times is poor at covering the city. It's not just that Metro coverage is given secondary billing - but the level of coverage given to city news is less than what you would expect to see from a good paper in Akron.

The Times often does not cover murders in its city - which offers a hint at how they view the importance of local coverage.

But now the Times offers an interactive map that charts murders throughout the city. Readers can look at patterns in homicides across time and place and make recommendations for trend stories. This seems like a great chance for communities to become more involved in helping to direct important stories. I hope this, along with The Local project partnered with CUNY, is sign that the Times plans to take its job in the city a bit more seriously.

As I was going through the map I found many of the victims I reported on, and I wanted to see if I could use the google maps tool also - but for a more personal purpose. The Times map shows a birdeye view. But I wanted to give an interactive street view of some of my memories.

New Bronx school copes with tragedy of student murders

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Man killed, 2nd hurt at Bronx party

View Larger Map

Man slain in Brooklyn on grandma's doorstep

View Larger Map

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mayKosaka said...

whoa! only 163 murders so far this year, compared to 521 in 2008, and the number hovers around 500 for several years before. i wonder why there are so far less this year, considering we're already halfway into the year. maybe it's the black-man-in-the-oval-office effect, considering that 60% of the perpetrators were Black... wait, was that slightly racist?

mayKosaka said...

oh, i forgot to say... this is a great posting, thanks for sharing it Joel.

Joel Schectman said...

Well don't forget may kosaka, that most of our months so far have been during the winter, a light season for murders. Expect the rate to spike hard in july and august as the weather gets warmer.

Joel Schectman said...

Of course that being said we have 80 less murders then the same time last year. It does appear to be a pretty sharp drop - and it was starting at a low point as it was.

I want to look into it.

mayKosaka said...

yeah, at 1st i thought it was b/c it was of the cold months, but then according to the nytimes page the slow cold months are only jan-march. yes, do look into it! i already sent a comment to that nytimes page about my observation, but who knows if anyone reads that stuff or if there's even anyone at the other end.

Rebecca Harshbarger said...

Crime reporting really does get to the heart of journalism, sometimes! Conflict, community, the pressure of filing quickly but accurately. The graphics on this post were excellent. Great post.