One Reporter's Notebook
Reporting from analytics: Example

I’ve written before on writing from analytics, but what happened today was just such a good example, I think it’s worth sharing. Briefly: checking out my site analytics, and taking clues from them led me to an unreported homicide. 

Here’s the step-by-step.

1. I had four searches for “20 year old male killed on fort stanton se may 4” in my search terms this afternoon, but in my records, I didn’t have any homicide that met that criteria, and I wasn’t aware of anything that has happened today, May 4.

2. Searches for “Fort Stanton homicide” failed, so I tried a more general approach. I searched “RIP” in realtime and sorted results to those nearby on Google. That yielded a truckload of RIP Twitter messages to “Fonnie,” including some including photos of a man who looked to be about 20 years old.  

3. So I took the search term “RIP Fonnie” to Facebook where I found a memorial poster with the birthdate 7-14-90 and the death date of 5-4-11. 

4. At this point I knew that a DC man named or nicknamed Fonnie died, and was likely killed, on May 4. But my only geographic clue was that initial search on my site, which said Fort Stanton. So I reached out to two people a) Gwen Crump, the MPD spokesperson and b) Ron Moten, the co-founder of Peaceaholics. I reached Ron first, he confirmed that a 20 year old male had been stabbed to death in Woodland Terrace, near Fort Stanton, and that he had died at a local hospital early Wednesday morning. But he didn’t know the exact address where the crime occurred or the guy’s name. Then Gwen called. She confirmed the homicide, gave an address, and IDed the victim as 20 year old Alphonzo Epps. 

The whole process took about an hour, start to finish. 

Update: at 10 p.m. tonight MPD put out a press release. I added it to my original post, which published at about 4 p.m.

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