Prosecutor’s Office creates Facebook, Twitter accounts after alleging local media isn’t being ‘accurate,’ promises transparency


By Staff Report

Following the creation and recent hire of an information specialist position, the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office announced Tuesday they have created social media accounts to provide ‘full and accurate details’ of criminal investigations, indictments and court proceedings.

The move is being touted as a way to increase transparency and involvement with the community, but will also allow the office to promote their prosecutor-centric narrative of prosecutions, having alleged local media is doing an inadequate job.

According to a press release issued early Tuesday morning, Facebook and Twitter accounts have been established as well as an up-and-coming website where information will be shared with the public.

Unlike other local government social media accounts, such as the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page, the ability to comment has been disabled.

“Interested citizens can now access information pertaining to the office, such as press releases, photos and updates on community involvement through the social media pages straight from the source for full and accurate details,” the release read in part. “This will generally allow the public to obtain a more accurate and detailed understanding of a case than what is often provided through media sources.”

The pages will make the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office one of the first in the region to have social media pages. Franklin County is the only other such local prosecutor’s office to have a page, which is rarely used, and instead their full-time media liaison works tirelessly with the local media to keep the public informed.

Muskingum County’s new information specialist said the local office has always taken a bold approach to prosecutions and community engagement, and that their new page will allow them to further that objective.

“We have seen the success other prosecutor’s offices have achieved through their use of social media in connecting with the people they serve and hope to achieve similar success here,” the representative wrote to inquiries about the decision to make social media pages. “The purpose of these pages is to provide information to the public about the work of the prosecutor’s office.”

The page will allegedly not be used for any campaign purposes should a contender challenge the sitting elected prosecutor.

In response to questions about how comments will be moderated or what will qualify a comment for deletion, commonly referred to as a social media policy, the information specialist said that the ability to comment had been turned off. Anyone wishing to ask a question or lodge a concern is instructed to contact the office directly.

Questions to if all those who are indicted or appear in court will be posted about on the page went unanswered. Y-City News was simply told that ‘as indicated in the release, indictment information, along with other information, will be provided at an appropriate time with the future launch of our website and statistics dashboard.’

When asked why they felt it was necessary to use the page to provide a ‘more accurate and detailed understanding of a case than what is often provided through media sources,’ the information specialist said they have concerns over how coverage of criminal cases are reported by the media, including that of Y-City News.

Instead of issuing press releases to the media, in the future, the office will use its social media pages to get information directly out to the public. Information requests can still be made by the media in their pursuit of covering criminal proceedings, but it appears specific media releases will now circumvent the media.

“We value our local news sources and recognize the important role they play in our community in sharing information,” the information specialist wrote. “Information on cases will be shared first on our social media pages. Our office will continue to be available to discuss cases and issues with the media upon request.”

It’s also unclear if the office will use the page to publish information in ‘news-like’ format, resembling news articles, an action that may lead to confusion for readers of the type and source of information they are consuming.

As a local media outlet, and unlike the prosecutor’s office, Y-City News has to fairly report and balance information from numerous sources, including the accused to tell the complete story in as neutral of way as possible. That sometimes means various parties are upset with how they are portrayed.

The forthcoming website will provide information on the elected prosecutor, staff members and court proceedings, as well as serve as the hub for press releases and crime statistics. It will also highlight new programs implemented by the office, as well as the office’s involvement with community organizations and members of the community.