Monday, March 06, 2006

Humanize The Stats

Team/Agency: Michael Sommermeyer of Clark County's Eighth Judicial District Court, Las Vegas, Nevada, Court Information Office. See his blog at wordymouth.com

Significance: After two child deaths involving child abuse and neglect in Las Vegas, the Court Information Office saw an opportunity to identify current trends in the Eighth Judicial District Court pointing to an alarming increase in the number of Child Abuse and Neglect cases being filed and adjudicated in Clark County. Recent statistics compiled for the court for 2005 and the first months of 2006 showed a marked increase in child abuse filings. The Court Information Office pitched this story as a criminal justice problem that was receiving little attention.

The Pitch:

Subject: (subject line not submitted)

Editor,

I know you're not interested in our current case activity numbers; I know they're boring and hard to understand, however, I think you'll want to see a couple numbers that indicate a societal problem, and perhaps, an area of community neglect.

As you're well aware, the community's been reeling from the tragic death of baby Jane "Cordova" Doe, and last week's death of the Ayala baby. The Coroner believes both deaths resulted from Child Abuse and Neglect.

While we always point to our record criminal case filing numbers, which are approaching an increase of 10 percent again this year, alarmingly the case filings for abuse and neglect are up nearly 30 percent from January 2005 to January 2006.

I'd like to bring you these numbers and connect you with Judge ABC, to provide some context and make these numbers come to life. In addition, I can help you connect with the people on the front lines, to develop this piece. From what they tell me, the increase can be attributed to population growth, an increase in drug use and the initiative to place more cops in the community. Could it be said that we're spending too much effort of building a city and not enough effort on building a functional society?

Think about this and let me know if you want to pursue the story. As always, we're ready to help you do the research and connect the dots.

What's To Like About The Pitch: Tearjerker, first of all. Who doesn't want to help those poor children? In this pitch, Michael and his team are trying to put a human face on scary statistics that might be boring on their face, but, the pitch acknowledges the dry stats and goes on to tell a darker story about the city's meteoric rise in population. They are empowering the reporter access to experts, like a local judge, who can tell the official tale. Lastly, this is a story with national significance but, it's being pitched with specific, local details to a local cadre of reporters.

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