First, mainstream media must learn how to use social media, or just get out of the way. The media tool of the night wasn’t mainstream media, but this combination of an online police scanner, Twitter timeline widgets, a blog.
Yet, even with that, you could hear CNN, Fox, and MSNBC reporters asking questions that were answered long ago on social media.
Take the whole cell phone turn off deal.
The initial word to turn off cell phones came from one officer to the other on their scanner at about 2 hours ago. But something happened – because the information from the scanner was being picked up online, and there were about 23,000 listeners at any one time, that police communication was transfered from person to person, and yes via Twitter too, and eventually it became this: “Everyone in Watertown must turn off their cell phone.”
If the mainstream media had known which information source to use, rather than person to ask, they would have been able to clean up the information problem, as I have done. What’s particularly vexing is the information’s on Twitter right in their face, and they don’t use it.
This is why there’s so much bad info: the willingness to trust a person, rather than a tool. All they had to do was either use the online scanner or read back in the Twitter feed for #Watertown and for “MIT In Boston.”
OK. This is what happened, and they were not related to this blogger’s mind:
1) The MIT Emergency List Website reported that a police officer was shot and by a man who reportedly, according to the police scanner, took his gun and then shot him with it. The officer was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was announced to be dead. The person said to have been involved as the suspect, was a “dark white male” with a “cowboy hat” according to scanner chatter.
2) Meanwhile, police scanners had also reported another incident. This one at 816 Memorial Drive. The report was of a Black Mercedes carjacked at a Shell gas station. Police said that Middle Eastern males – one darker skinned. This in Cambridge, and not at MIT, but near Watertown. In this case, we have two people. At Mass 94 Spruce Street: police said the suspects have explosives at the scene! That was from the police scanner.
3) Then we had another scanner report of a 2nd officer down in Cambridge. Later, that person was taken to a hospital, but no reports of anything else. Again, that was separate from the MIT situation.
Then there were reports of bombs in Watertown. As a response, the police asked other police officers to turn their cell phones off. The fear was that use of a phone would set off a bomb. That was not a warning for the general public, but for the police who were getting close to “packages” and “devices” for what the police thought were bombs.
The gun fight was between these men and police; meanwhile the MIT cop killer had escaped and is still at large.
Personally, I think there’ only one way that these incidents are connected: the police may have been investigating something in the MIT case, and the officer scared the person who he encountered, who may have been wanted for something else – he certainly seems to have responded that way. That that man is one of the two bomber suspects is so only by circumstance, and nothing else.
But the overarching problem is this: the two bombing suspects are still at large.