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Ohio town, reeling from rape case, sets up website. Can it influence coverage? (+video)

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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.

Months later, the website continues to provide information related to the incident, such as grief counseling session times and notice of a town hall meeting discussing violence scheduled to take place this Saturday.

“Local municipalities are often slow to communication, mainly what they do is provide agendas for meetings and phone directories. But with the public now familiar with social media, they want the information right away,” Mayor Scaffidi says. “We essentially provided raw data, and whatever was released publicly,  we released it on the site. That was the real difference: the immediacy.”

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