Bidding farewell to Chicago Crime

Adrian Holovaty has announced the shutdown of chicagocrime.org, the groundbreaking online dynamic data project that has inspired so many journalists since 2005 (only 2005? Gosh, it seems much longer … Internet years …).

The site is still functioning today, but according to Adrian’s post, it will be gone tomorrow.

One of many things I have liked to point out about chicagocrime.org — particularly when I have shown it to journalism students — is that Adrian produced this site apart from his day job, without any payment, and without any advertising. (He also did it without any assistance from the Chicago Police Department, using automated “scraper” scripts to extract the data from their Web site.)

More than one student has asked me why anyone would produce such a project without getting paid for it.

It makes me feel so sad when I hear that question.

(Read Adrian’s May 2005 post announcing the launch of chicagocrime.org.)

To see similar online projects, see Danny Sanchez’s recently updated online crime maps directory.

5 Comments on “Bidding farewell to Chicago Crime

  1. Is that really such a sad question, Mindy? I mean, before I got in a newspaper, I wrote for Don’t Panic, a Brit e-zine, for a year for no pay. It was fun, but after a while you start to ask how to turn a hobby into a job. I mean, I was making people coffee and barely scraping by, and my editors were getting free copy.

    Is it wrong to want to make a living off working your ass off? I’m not trying to put a dollar bill on everything I do, but I do think it’s reasonable to want to be compensated for work, especially work that is valuable and helps people.

    Not trying to attack you or anything – I’ve a great deal of respect for what you do. But I think that sadness is a little off. If I do something in my spare time that is work, I want it to supplement my meager income, now or sometime down the road. There’s a difference between that and being a greedy bastard.

  2. I think it’s sad that a young journalist can’t imagine why you would produce something journalistic and not want money for doing it.

    The beauty of it is, not seeking money, Adrian got $10,000 in a Batten Award and, later, $1.5 million in a Knight Challenge Grant.

  3. I can see that. I suppose it’s like lots of professional bloggers – if you start doing it for the money and only for the money, dollar bills are the last thing you’ll see from it.

  4. Good analogy, Charlie. And if Adrian had gone around looking for money, maybe he never would have made chicagocrime.org. Or maybe too many interests would have muddied it up.

    There’s a thing called proof of concept — sometimes your primary goal is to show how a thing ought to be done.

  5. I think ChicagoCrime was a great thing for journalism and if Mr. Holovaty did nothing else, he would have made an important contribution with that site.

    But in the end, it proved unsustainable, right? If it was really a success, wouldn’t it have attracted the readership, advertising and revenue that would make it worth running? (In fairness, I don’t know if ads could even be served against it. So maybe it’s not the right question to ask.)

    I don’t mean this as a dig at all. I love your blog. And maybe EveryBlock will be a financial success because of ChicagoCrime. But it’s part of bigger problem I think a lot of people that preach about online journalism avoid. I’m with Charlie on this one. It seems to me, that saying it’s “sad” that someone wonders about the business side of journalism is just a way of dodging a legitimate question.

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