Weatherford Democrat

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August 9, 2013

TSU student from W’ford presenting crime mapping work at D.C. conference

STEPHENVILLE —A Tarleton State University junior communications studies major and her adviser will present a report at a national conference today in Washington, D.C.

Rachel Peoples, from Weatherford, will deliver a presentation about her work mapping violent crime at the annual conference for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Friday. Dan Malone, assistant professor, will co-present.

The presentation is a progress report on a grant the communications studies department secured to give students the opportunity to practice real-world service journalism.

Peoples, the project manager, and other Tarleton students are using the grant money to map violent crimes (murder, robbery, assault, sexual assault) in 2012 in the eight-county Cross Timbers Region, share the records gathered through DocumentCloud and post the interactive maps on a student-run website. They will provide data and stories to surrounding news outlets.

Malone and Dr. Sarah Maben, assistant professors in the communication studies department, received the grant as part of the 2012-13 “Building a Bridge between the Knight News Challenge and JMC Programs.”

“Through the project, communities and their news outlets have access to data they may not have the resources to develop and collate on their own,” Malone said. “Distributive journalism breaks the large projects into smaller projects that teams can tackle. In today’s community newsrooms, reporters can’t be spared for months-long reporting projects like this. But our students can, and learn a lot about public service journalism in the process.”

Each journalism and broadcasting class has a role in the project. Students have filed requests for offense reports for violent crimes (murder, robbery, assault, sexual assault) with each of some two dozen law enforcement agencies in the Cross Timbers area. The region has a population of about 185,000, according to 2011 Census estimates.

Students are building a database showing date, type of crime, and location, which will then be uploaded into Google Fusion to build interactive maps color-coded for each category of crime.

Each colored-coded crime dot would include basic information about the crime – as well as a link to the actual offense report in DocumentCloud detailing the offense. The maps will be available to the public and area news agencies to post.

The team expects to post maps in the fall semester on www.texannews.net.

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