Contrary to what some may say (including close family relatives) the internet isn’t “all that” for solving every problem. Many seem to think that the internet (twitter) really led the way in reporting news because of access to police scanners, much “dis- and mis- information” still was circulated. In fact, the WSJ recently posted an article “Cops to Boston Bombing Crowdsourcers: Please Don’t Try This at Home” (where the ‘hidden’ title in the browser bar is “Internet worried Boston Bombing Investigators”)
Despite what even my nephew may have thought, just because you hear something on a police scanner doesn’t make it correct even if you heard it correctly, and there is always a high likelihood that it will be “mis-heard.” During any operation (especially military and military style operations) there exists the “fog of war.” People report what they see, and they often are incorrect. Remember, eye-witnesses to events are often the least objective reporters. Police, while we would like to think are ‘trained observers’ are not immune to these problems as well. In fact, in their rush to share information with their colleagues, WHO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE NEWS SHARED, they may share wrong, or later to be found wrong, information.
People listening over the internet to the scanners often (always?) don’t understand the nature of what is shared, and repeat it as fact. One quote from someone tweeting what they were hearing was “I can say the police scanner is pretty reliable.” But at age 16, he doesn’t understand the inherent problems associated with ‘immediate” situational reporting. He hasn’t been there–and yet he reported everything he heard as “fact” because it was the cops. He of course also shared it in “all caps” which (as my daughter pointed out, is shouting — see and re-read my use of caps above.)
BOTTOM LINE: Professionals, with extensive training in their fields, who have developed an intuition born through repetition and education, remain the best suited for dealing with their disciplines and ultimately making a difference. This is true regardless of whether it is a police officer, a neurosurgeon, or even a pancreatic cancer researcher.
I will leave you with one question: Who would you want to draft the plans for a new skyscraper–a structural engineer, or someone who has “read a lot” on the internet?