Crowdsource Mapping Tracks Gunfire in D.C.

WI Web Staff | 4/20/2013, 9 p.m.

Howard University's Journalism Department is working with local news organizations to record reports of gunfire in D.C. neighborhoods.

Using crowdsourcing maps as the primary method of obtaining the information, the project allows residents to participate in identifying when and, to a degree, where firearms are discharged in the city.

Ingrid Sturgis, professor in the School of Communications, is coordinator for the undertaking.

"With this project, using crowdsourcing maps helps us to get users that hear gunshots in their communities to report on these happenings," Sturgis says. "It will helps us to see exactly where the issue with [gunfire] is."

Supported by a Knight News Challenge Bridge Grant from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEMJC) and the Knight Foundation, the project will use advanced crowdsourcing software to visually paint a picture of where participating residents say they have heard gunfire.

This approach gives readers a chance to take a bigger role in helping to provide solutions for ridding neighborhoods long plagued by an abundance of firearms the violence that too comes with them. "Crowdsourcing is a form of user and reader engagement," Sturgis says. "Your reader is actively helping you find out information and helping in the production of an article. It deepens the relationship between a publication and its readers."

Through this project, Sturgis also hopes to connect with the black press to create awareness of the availability of new tools to attract and engage new users and readers. Supporting the project are The Washington Informer, National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and Radio One.

"I am hoping to work with the black press to take advantage of gun violence sensitivity to address issues in our communities," Sturgis says. "The project also will give students an understanding of what they'll need to know moving forward as journalists to engage with readers."

To get involved and report any gunshots heard in your community, please visit dcgunshots.crowdmap.com. Interested parties can also contact Professor Sturgis at ingrid.sturgis@howard.edu.