The Counted: How many people got killed by police, when and where?
In traditional news reporting only high profile cases find a way into publishing. In comparison, data-driven projects can illustrate the topic as a whole quantified over time..
“The Counted” uses a dashboard approach, providing a variety of filters to compare the number of police killings in the US. The approach puts constant data collection on a new level.
Quote: “The Counted is a project by the Guardian – and you – working to count the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States throughout 2015, to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died. The database will combine Guardian reporting with verified crowdsourced information to build a more comprehensive record of such fatalities.”
While the editors do not claim to cover every case, the project provides deeper insight into justice issues. For example, I got the emerging impression that small causes can lead to violent death. Likewise, each user can filter the data, to explore and develop their own insights on the issue.
“The Counted” makes effective use of brief comparisons - by ethnicity, by state etc - and has the total number of reported deaths prominently on top of the page. Furthermore, readers can switch between a list view with short profiles of people who have been killed or a map view. Both views offer insights into patterns and backgrounds. It is quite shocking how often police in the US is involved in killings, whatever the background for such cases might be.
As a project, this ongoing investigation and collection can used as an example to build upon for other news outlets. Other ongoing topics could be better covered in similar ways - ranging from housing to employment. The latter would be not as high profile as people being killed, but the principle displayed here is a way to keep track of data in an interactive way.
Building such databases is a challenge and the impact will depend on the topic, for sure. In this particular case though the high interest of the public is the driver for such a data-driven offering.
Smaller newsrooms, take note: the means to start these kind of ongoing offerings are becoming easier to handle, so do not miss out on such data-driven stories. There are quite a few topics which would deserve consistent tracking - from crime to employment to big construction efforts. Take a long look at "The Counted" and think how other topics could be reported in similar ways.