Congratulations to The Counted, the Guardian, winner of this year’s Best Use of Social Media
The Elevator Pitch
The US government does not record killings by police, so the Guardian created an interactive database of all police killings in the US in 2015, with the help of communities built on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Without our work through social media, several deaths would never have been reported. The FBI is now copying our methodology.
Set The Scene
We had a tiny team compared with our competitors, and we knew the Washington Post was planning a similar project.
We needed to go beyond traditional news reporting techniques due to the scarcity of information – we couldn’t access data purely through official sources or rely on other media. We had to reach people involved directly and create open channels to gather their knowledge and crowdsource the project.
Tell Us The Story
With a team of four developers, three reporters, a researcher, a picture editor and two audience engagement editors, we put together an interactive database, a complex system of alerts and searches, a tips system and social media communities to help us gather information from as many places as possible. The social side required us to devise community standards for all our accounts, as this is a contentious issue and we needed to retain balance and moderate effectively. Maintaining and moderating these accounts is in addition to other newsroom work and is crucial so that tips are brought in as they happen, and so that readers know they can contact reporters directly through these
Our database has had well over 1m page views since it was launched, many driven by our Facebook and Twitter pages where we have approximately 40k followers in total and where we have sourced hundreds of tips and data points. We have had more than 1,500 tips through our anonymous form, and have reported several deaths that would otherwise have gone unreported. We have also prompted the US government to take action to improve its own reporting, and the FBI is learning from our methodology.