[Read the full piece here.]
"Homicide Watch D.C. started in 2010 when Amico moved to Washington, D.C., after her husband got a job at PBS NewsHour. She said her first month she had 500 visitors. It was small and she wasn’t sure what to expect. Over 2 1/2 years, the community response has exploded. She averages 10,000 hits a day, most of her traffic coming from search engines."
Without fail, the regularly appearing local police and court logs are the most-viewed stories on Reformer.com. There's a running joke that we should run this type of content on the front page (which I don't think we'd ever do). But it does show what content captures readers' attention.
"Keeping track of hundreds of cases is a challenge, so Amico said she learned early that creating a working database was the only way she’d be able to accomplish her vision for her project.
Read a transcript of our interview with Laura Amico.
“'We always know the status of a case at any given time, and that helps us not have to redo a lot of the work again and again, when six months after the preliminary hearing, we’re now in pre-trial motions, we don’t have to go back and do a lot of catchup,' she said."
This brings up an interesting conundrum. Years, ago, when forced to downsize the newsroom by one reporter, the beat which took the biggest hit was police and courts. Since then, we've done a relatively good job (in my opinion) of filling in the gap with several different reporters making a team effort. Still, I remember back to earlier years in the industry, when some newsrooms had one dedicated police/court reporter and that's all they did, all day, every day (except in extreme circumstance). In fact, it's left such an impression with me that I've often said that, if there was a future scenario where I could add a person to the newsroom again, that person would only cover police and courts.
What Amico has proven is that, be it a newsroom with a desire to invest or a community start-up with initiative, either could provide an amazing local service dedicating time, effort and coverage to the police and court beats that often suffer in newsrooms these days. And, depending on the size of the community, you could probably make quite a good "business" out of it, too.
"As for her role in the future of journalism, Amico told IAJ’s Michael O’Connell that she sees it going more in the direction of community, source-driven journalism.
"'I think that we’re moving towards a more audience-centric, empathetic journalism.'"
Niche journalism? I can definitely see a future in that.