While bullets were still flying between police and police killer Christopher Dorner, the San Bernardino DA issued this request:
While some media did comply, others didn’t because they could not get a clear answer for the reason behind the request. For example, was there some reason to believe Twitter posts were more dangerous than the live police and radio coverage underway?
KPCC Public Radio collected these posts:
The Orange County Register said that was not the only press/police clash Tuesday:
First, as helicopters circled above the sight of the standoff between Dorner and law enforcement, officials asked news helicopters to move farther from the scene. Second, about the time the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office sent a message on Twitter saying, “The sheriff has asked all members of the press to stop tweeting immediately. It is hindering officer safety.” A few hours later, the tweet was removed.
Disagreements between press and police over access to crime scenes are common, but very few draw as much public attention as the Dorner case did. Such clashes are to be expected when two organizations come into the same workspace with very different goals. In fact, many reporters carry laminated cards citing the California law that permits press access to help press their case in such instances.
News agencies responded differently to Tuesday’s requests. News helicopters voluntarily moved farther from the scene of the shootout before they were officially banned from within five miles of the cabin. Both KCBS/2 and sister station KCAL/9 complied with the no-tweeting request, although they did not pause in the rest of their coverage. The Press-Enterprise in Riverside said it would stop tweeting, then later clarified to say “We are going to tweet broad, non-tactical details, as per the San Bernardino DA’s request.” Most other news organizations simply ignored the request.
The result was a fountain of Twitter messages accusing law enforcement trying to hide information and the press of playing into their hands. Typical was a tweet from user @HellaBootsy, who wrote, “so because the police ordered the press away from the scene, we’ll never know if #dorner tried to surrender.”
Later, Dorner’s death in the cabin was confirmed by unnamed authorities and widely reported by news organizations, and then withdrawn, an act that merely inflamed the suspicious.