Police: Scanner traffic may not give full story - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Police: Scanner traffic may not give full story


Eau Claire (WQOW) - After word of Monday's apparent shooting broke out on social media, many people turned to apps or other ways to hear police scanner traffic to get more details about the situation, but police said that may only give half the story.

Police said in certain situations, they go to other channels that not everyone can hear to protect information for their investigation.

Professor of Journalism and Interim Chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism Jan Larson said that is why most media outlets do not immediately report what is heard on the scanner. Larson said scanners alert journalists about breaking news, and while information on the scanner comes from police, it is often about what they suspect is happening.

Larson tells her students reporting facts based on scanner traffic can be risky. "It is probably better to hold off on presenting the news until they have verification," Larson said. "There have been too many instances in the media, where that rush to meet the public's desire to know right now, has resulted in wrong information being disseminated. We had problems with the Sandy Hook shooting. We had problems with the Boston Marathon bombing. We had problems when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was pronounced dead on live radio when indeed she was grievously injured, but she survived that attack."

Larson said if media or citizens report what is heard on the scanner in the rush to get out information, they should say it is not confirmed so people know to check back in later for the full story. 

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