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  • How Americans think and feel about gun violence

    A man killed his wife, then himself. I want you to see his face and learn that he enjoyed fishing with his grandchildren. A small-time drug dealer is shot by two men in a parking lot. I find his Facebook profile and a photo shows him striking a playfully irreverent pose, giving the camera the middle finger. The photo’s comments take a mournful turn after a certain date. “Rest easy bro ???” Gun Memorial runs...

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  • What happened when Gun Memorial let anyone contribute directly to victim profiles

    If you’re reporting local or niche news, there’s a good chance that your audience collectively knows more about the story than you do. That’s especially true for us at Gun Memorial, a small publication with a nationwide mission of covering every American who is shot dead. In our latest, mostly successful, experiment, we let readers add to our stories without editor intervention. This article shares some lessons from that experience. Asking for reader contributions A...

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  • Want to build a successful digital community? This old book may help

    If we ever meet I’ll probably ask you for advice on my latest project, Gun Memorial. I’ll explain that we’re trying to humanize reporting on gun violence in America by showing the face of every victim. I’ll say that we’re getting lots of traffic but we need more contributions from “citizen journalists” to sustain the project. I’ll ask, “do you have any suggestions?” I was surprised when two people recommended the same book to me...

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  • Letting readers get a word in: An experiment in reader engagement

    Forward-thinking journalists value "reader engagement," and that generally means that readers are actively contributing to the story instead of just consuming it. What happens when we take reader engagement to an extreme? What kinds of reader contributions are useful and which are just gimmicks? The Tow Center's 2015 Guide to Crowdsourcing says that "news consumers clearly have stories to share, but they don’t necessarily want to write the news." If not the actual copy, then...

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  • Challenges in structured journalism: Why it's hard to write the same story every day

    This article is a part of a series written by Knight Lab Professional Fellow Steve Tarzia documenting his work to develop a crowdsourced model to support the ongoing content creation needs of GunMemorial.org. Follow the series here. The Pulitzer Prize awarded two weeks ago to the Washington Post’s police shootings database was a victory for everyone working on telling big stories with data. The Post’s database is a great example of structured journalism, and what I...

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  • Steve Tarzia joins Knight Lab as a professional fellow

    Last week Knight Lab welcomed Steve Tarzia as a new professional fellow. During his fellowship, under a program supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Tarzia will work to make a gun violence site he founded more sustainable. Tarzia, who has a Ph.D. in computer science and has worked on development teams at several Chicago companies, launched GunMemorial.org in December and will work at Knight Lab for the next three months to...

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