California's War Dead: an update
A month ago, The Times introduced the California's War Dead project, an online compilation of information about the American servicemen and -women who have died in the line of duty during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The database profiles most of the more than 500 Californians killed, and allows readers to search for information by age, region, high school, marital status, country of birth and more (here's a link to the initial posting about the project on the Readers' Representative Journal). Below is a note from morning assignment editor Megan Garvey sent to the Metro staff today providing the latest on the project.
Just a quick note to everyone who worked so hard to get this project launched.
The database continues to be used daily by readers. In the first month alone it had about 450,000 page views, which traffic-wise would have made it about 6th among The Times' top blogs if it was being counted that way.
In addition, we now have more than 360 comments on the individual memorial pages, most from close friends or family members who are finding their way to our site to leave their memories.
In many cases, the comments are for the most recently dead but we've also had posts left for people who died years ago, including a long remembrance from a friend of Brian Cody Prosser, who was killed in Afghanistan in December 2001.
Patrick Horton wrote: "Brian, I remember your humor, athletics, kindness and the good times at lunch and long bus rides home with the 'Hill Kids' to Frazier Park when we went to Maricopa H.S. together. You inspired me to join the military myself five years ago, by your example and with the hope of partly picking up the job where you left off as best as I can.... Whatever the critics say, I hope they pause long enough to realize that it's soldiers like you that have pushed back the darkness of tyranny the world over throughout history and that soldiers love peace first and most since they may pay the highest price for it as you have."
Horton also sent an e-mail thanking the L.A. Times for creating the database and suggesting veterans groups he thought would want to share it with their members. [And I did contact them.] He said he had taken a couple of weeks to think about what he wanted to say before posting.
Since the database launched, Ben Welsh has added a number of user-friendly features, including an easy-to-see list of recent comments, as well as navigation that makes it possible go chronologically through the pages. We still plan to add units and get additional information from the DOD on death investigations and citizenship with an eye toward using it a reporting resource.
During what has been a bleak time for newspapers, this type of public service really means something to our readers and shows that print and web can come together in substantive ways.