The Fifth Estate: The Homicide Report

The homicide report is a blog authored by Jill Leovy, a reporter in Los Angeles, that sought to cover every homicide committed in the County of Los Angeles over a single year. As an example of The Fifth Estate, it is a hybrid, in that it is not independent of The Los Angeles Times. The blog is complementary to LAT coverage, but hosted at the LATs site. Nevertheless, since the paper cannot cover all of the deaths by homicide across the County, given the sheer volume of homicides and the limits of a newspaper – the proverbial news hole, Jill has tried through her blogging initiative.

The site is at http://homicide.latimes.com One recent post summarized the scale of the problem, reporting homicides in 2014, and citing the LAT, noting: ‘The 551 homicides in Los Angeles County in 2014 were overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly the victims of gunfire.’ See: http://homicide.latimes.com/post/lowest-homicide-l-county-2000/ Some posts are quite basic reporting, but they provide a public record that is more accessible to networked individuals, including the victim and the location. See, for example, http://homicide.latimes.com/post/pablo-meza/

This example illustrates the potential of the Internet to complement the Fourth Estate, such as by covering more stories and providing information that the news could not normally cover. It also provided a channel for the author, who found a way to address her concern, and make her career more fulfilling.

I learned of her blog from a NYT review of Jill Leovy’s book, entitled Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. (Spiegel & Grau).

Examples of the phenomenon I have called ‘The Fifth Estate’ emerge frequently, so I’ve decided to post notes on those I find that provide illustrative examples of how the Fifth Estate can support a more pluralistic form of democratic accountability through individuals being enabled by the Internet to source information and network outside of traditional institutions. References on The Fifth Estate can be found at: http://quello.msu.edu/research/the-fifth-estate/

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