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5.5 Seconds

Cheryl W. Thompson writes about the shooting of DeOnté Rawlings, a teen who was suspected of stealing a minibike in D.C., in the story 5.5 seconds that was printed in the Washington Post. The incident is controversial because the 14-year-old boy was shot and killed by two police officers that were on the scene and were responding in self-defense after being shot at by Rawlings. It has recently come to light, however, that Rawlings might not have been the one who shot at the officers and that his death was in fact unjustifiable.

Thompson uses a number of computer-assisted reporting skills to help her create the story. Thompson reports in this story that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier had publicly promised a thorough and open investigation, something that Thomspon must have either looked up online or listened to on the television. Also, as Thomspon describes how neither the mayor nor the police chief supported their promise to keep the case open to the public; Thompson most likely tried to access public records and found that this was impossible or tried to report on the incident and found it difficult to access records that had earlier been deemed open to the public. Thompson could only draw the conclusion that the case was not open to the public if she herself could not access the files and databases she should have been able to, something that requires reporting.

Also, Thompson references the Washington Post, which means she must be keeping updated with news either online or in print; since it is easier to track the history of stories online (see if there are follow-ups or different “chapters” in a story), she most likely was paying attention to what other publications were saying about the story.

Thompson references police records in the story, which justifies the fact that she most likely accessed the records either online or in person. She also references a sensor system known as ShotSpotter, which detects and locates gunshots. Thompson accessed the ShotSpotter reports for this particular incident in order to help her report the story.

There is also a reference to Rawlings’ police records, which are from D.C. Thompson has also likely accessed court reports regarding the lawsuit that was brought against the city and the two officers in U.S. District Court.

Lastly, Thompson clearly references the initial incident report regarding the shooting throughout the story, proving that she had accessed this report.

The computer skills that were needed in order to create this story were the ability to access a variety of public records, whether it is via computer or in-person. Thompson clearly accessed numerous records such as court, police, and incident records, among an assortment of others. Without her ability to access such records and know where and how to find them, Thompson would have been unable to do much of the required reporting for this story.