Introducing our Documents Library

Last week Homicide Watch D.C. debuted it’s Documents Library, an online resource for all documents related to homicide cases in the District of Columbia.

Here you’ll be able to find unsolved case fliers, news releases, charging documents, case dismissals and more.

Here’s the back story:

One of our primary goals in building Homicide Watch D.C. has always been to display our primary source documents in public whenever possible. Originally that meant just court documents, but as we’ve worked on the site the past four months the field of documents has grown to include reward posters, news releases and more.

We could do what most other news organizations do and summarize the information in those documents for you, but we think reporters don’t need to be gatekeepers. And if you’re interested in reading the charging documents in a homicide case or flipping through reward posters, we want it to be as easy as possible for you to do so.

To that end, in November we started using DocumentCloud, “an index of primary source documents and a tool for annotating, organizing and publishing them on the web.” DocumentCloud is a project originally created by journalists and developers from ProPublica and The New York Times and now funded with a Knight News Challenge grant.

DocumentCloud allows us to upload, store and publish all of our documents. Just as important, it allows us to search the entire library of published documents. So if we’re doing a story on, say, shooting deaths in D.C., we can find all of the press releases, posters, court documents, etc, that reference guns, gunshot wounds, shooting, etc.

Here’s where we’re going with this:

Documents will still be embedded in posts about those documents, but they will also be available the Homicide Watch library. Right now all documents are posted in the library, regardless of their source or content. Eventually they will be catalogued by like (charging docs with charging docs, reward poster with reward poster).

This is very much a work in progress. Expect more features in the coming weeks. And let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or emailing HomicideWatchDC [at]

blog comments powered by Disqus