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Monday, October 3, 2016

First Person: Modern Problems

Once upon a time...

Standoffs are really nothing new.  Someone refuses to come out of their home.  Maybe they intend to harm themselves.  Maybe they want to harm someone else.  Occasionally weapons.  Sometimes hostages.

Police used to cut off outside communications.  Electricity was shut off.  Phone lines cut.  It was safe for the media to report what was going on outside because the person inside couldn't see or hear it.

Times have changed.  You can cut the copper.  You can't stop wireless.  Well, I guess you can, but I'm not sure the locals are equipped with jamming devices.

It's always in my mind when a stand off crops up.  I wonder if the person inside is watching the situation unfold on his smart phone.  I wonder if he or she is phoning someone who is feeding information.  SWAT teams.  Armageddon at the front door, and the subject of the intervention can see every move.

The solution?  Shut up.  I won't knowingly broadcast something that can put someone's life in danger-- not the suspect, not police and the other first responders, not the neighbors.
A situation appeared Sunday morning.  A man was in a home in south Scranton, and refused to leave.  We knew.  It was happening during our Sunday morning broadcast.  We had staffers there.  We waited.  I just couldn't be sure someone wouldn't be endangered by broadcasting the news.  If the neighbors were in harm's way, police would have moved them away.

Complicating the situation, a man in a near by house streamed the whole thing on Facebook.  We watched.  It made me very uncomfortable, to say the least, and I love the First Amendment more than anyone.

The matter came to a peaceful end about eight hours after it started.

Technology is a marvelous thing.  It brings us information at the speed of light...  but when it comes to questionable broadcasts, one phrase dominates:  "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."