As I took the train home from work on Friday evening, a Twitter reporter I follow broadcasted that 30 or so cop cars had just screamed past her in Watertown. Immediately, I began to see every head on the train become glued to the phone in front of it, each watching history unfold as police cornered the most prominent suspect in Boston Marathon bombings.

Within two hours, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been taken alive. As I listened to the Watertown police scanner, social media overflowed within seconds of the announcement that he had been successfully arrested.

While there are many questions left to answer in coming to terms with these horrific acts of violence, one question sticks out to me: Is the immediacy of the Internet helpful or harmful in cases of breaking news?

It can be either, and it’s all about how we use it.

First, consider the effects of this hunger for immediacy on trust.

The role of any news organization is to serve the public in bringing them the information they need on the world around them, whether it is in situations of unfolding terrorism or otherwise. For this to work, the public needs to able to wholeheartedly trust the collective of journalists throughout every medium.

CNN, the Associated Press and many other seemingly reputable news sources broke this sense of trust on Wednesday by falsely reporting that a suspect had been arrested in the Boston Marathon bombing case. While they all recanted and apologized within a short time of reporting it, the mistake had been made.

Why did CNN and the rest break this false news? It seems the drive to be first in order to gain more viewers trumps the need to be accurate and truthful.

But it’s instances like these that show they are hurting themselves more than helping. CNN initially falsely reported the name of the killer in the Sandy Hook shootings, and they were the first to break the false arrest in the marathon bombing investigation. Next time something like this happens, I won’t be retweeting or tuning in to CNN.

Luckily this instance of sloppy journalism didn’t cause any immediate danger to the public, but it’s a risk we shouldn’t even have to consider. News organizations have an obligation to sacrifice the potential increase in immediate viewership to ensure accurate reporting and instilling long-term trust.

Another important consideration is the effects and potential dangers of broadcasting available intelligence in both professional and citizen journalism.

For example, earlier on Friday, police and FBI requested that the public and media not broadcast any police locations so as not to tip off Tsarnaev, who may have been on Twitter or another social platform.

I’ll admit that I am guilty of going against this request.

While I avoided listening to the scanner for most of the day, once there were announcements that they had Tsarnaev potentially located in the boat, I immediately starting broadcasting scanner updates of the unfolding arrest. My logic was, even if he somehow was following along on Twitter at that moment, reading my transcription of his movements wouldn’t help out his situation too much.

After my adrenaline subsided later in the night, I started to think. There’s always the possibility the police were wrong and that anyone was hiding in that boat. What if Tsarnaev, hiding out in another area, saw initial scanner reports of police activity somewhere else and immediately seized the opportunity to flea?

Would I be partly responsible for helping a suspected terrorist escape?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. This was a terrifying event that we will hopefully never see the like of again.

And in the unfortunate case that we do, it is important to consider the potential effects of everything you put on the internet, whether you are tweeting from the newsroom or the living room.

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