Steubenville, Ohio, was buffeted by criticism after the alleged rape of a teenage girl by two high school football players. Now the town has a website for the case, but whether it will deflect critics is unclear.
Soon after two high school football players were arrested and charged with raping a 16-year-old girl, in an alleged attack that was documented, in part, on social media, the town of Steubenville, Ohio found itself under siege.
At worst, said critics, who ranged from area activists to supporters of the hacker site Anonymous, local officials tried to downplay the more lurid details of the alleged attack. At best, they said, the police mishandled the case in the very early days of its investigation.
So, this week, five months after the arrests, and with the case gathering national attention, the city created a website to steer the narrative – according to the website, “to disseminate the most accurate information” – about the case.
The strategy is an extension of what many communities do when thrust into the spotlight following a tragic incident, such as a mass shooting or a high-profile crime investigation.
In most cases, creating a web presence is typical. After the mass shooting in August at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee that left six people dead, for example, town officials in Oak Creek, Wis., dedicated a page on their website to provide real time updates on candlelight vigils, funeral dates and times, and updates on the recovery of a police officer who was shot 15 times but survived.
Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said he first became aware of the power of providing real time data online after the first press conference after the shooting, when the police chief announced that the names of the victims would be uploaded to the website that morning. Minutes later, the website received 10 million hits, forcing the server to shut down for 20 minutes.
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