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From the December 10, 2011, Tribune-Review
By Paul Peirce
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Aficionados of the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office don't approach Lady Gaga's 16.7 million followers or even pop star Justin Bieber's 15.2 million devotees, but Coroner Ken Bacha's office issues instant notification of public rulings via Twitter and Facebook.
In mid-October, the Westmoreland row office became the first in the state to offer official public releases via popular social media. Other coroners are watching the foray with interest.
Such information had been available through email on the county's e-Alert system. Bacha said the office was looking for a way to more quickly disseminate public information.
"It was pretty much changed for convenience ... to get the information out there more quickly," Chief Deputy Coroner Paul Cycak said.
"Previously, if there was a case we were called to, let's say that occurred Friday night, the previous system was set up only to provide information during normal county business hours -- that's 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. So, the media had to wait until Monday morning to get the information,"he said.
"This way, we at least have a system in place to provide the media with that public information during other hours," Cycak said.
Deputy Coroner Josh Zappone handles the office's Twitter feeds and Facebook page. In its first 59 days, Zappone said, the office's Twitter feed had increased from "just a couple" to 47 followers.
"It's been going pretty good so far, I think. The number of followers keeps incrementally increasing," Zappone said.
Zappone said the social media feeds are a way to provide information to reporters, who may be out in the field and in need of the information.
"We wanted to do it in a manner as quickly and efficiently as possible. Also, it is public information, so we decided to make it available to members of the general public who want it ... there's some police officers, people from other agencies and members of the public who follow the office on Twitter or the Facebook page," Zappone said.
Most of the information involves the cause and manner of death, the time of death and the agencies investigating. The information is still being released via email.
All feeds and postings must first be approved by Bacha or Cycak before release. Some information is withheld at the request of investigators.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has established a new Twitter feed to increase online ease and access to its rulings. The specially designated site will provide instant notification of the online posting of most Supreme Court information, such as orders, new rules, opinions and concurring and dissenting statements written by the justices. Anyone can sign-up to receive alerts from the Court’s Twitter page, which can be accessed at twitter.com/SupremeCtofPA. “Follow Us On Twitter” links also will appear on the state court system’s Web site to take interested parties directly to the page.
“The manner and pace in which the Commonwealth’s citizens expect to receive information from their government is changing rapidly,” said Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin, who has spearheaded the move in behalf of the entire Court. “This is a logical extension of an ongoing commitment to enhance the delivery of court information and services in an efficient and cost-effective manner.” All new rulings posted to the Pennsylvania Judiciary Web site will be linked to a Tweet, and available immediately on a follower’s personal home page.
The new service complements and expands the Pennsylvania Judiciary’s online offerings by maximizing the convenience of the Internet through cell phones and other devices. The new service will not be set up for communicating with the Court. Those who have questions or wish to report a problem or concern about the state’s judicial system may continue to do so through the Public Comments section of the Pennsylvania Judiciary’s Web site at www.pacourts.us/Public+Comments/Default.htm