Looking forward to the future of journalism

Mexican Murders, American Victims

mexicoLise Olsen at the Houston Chronicle has a gripping story in our Sunday paper that puts names and faces to the 230 Americans who have been killed in Mexico since 2003.

Lise went beyond the scant statistics provided by the State Department and built her own database with the name of each victim, the age, location, approximate date, and other details. The entire database is searchable and online. There’s also an interactive Yahoo! map that shows where each death occurred.

Lise wrote:

The U.S. State Department tracks most American homicides abroad, but the department releases minimal statistics and doesn’t include the names of victims or details about their deaths. The Chronicle examined hundreds of records to document the personal tragedies behind them.

“I’m no longer the same person,” said Paula Valdez, a Houston mother who lost her son in a slaying near her childhood home in central Mexico’s Guerrero in 2004.

More U.S. citizens suffered unnatural deaths in Mexico than any other country — excluding military killed in combat zones — from 2004 to 2007, State Department statistics show. Most died in the recent outbreaks of violence in bleeding border cities — Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo.

This is a great example of enterprise journalism, and how important stories are often buried under dry, official statistics.