Covering a manhunt presents its own difficulties, beyond just the threat of physical danger.
Brian Stelter describes [NYT] the difficulties involved:
The authorities simultaneously thanked members of the news media for spreading the word that Bostonians should take shelter and remain alert — and cautioned them against repeating secondhand or thinly sourced information. The Massachusetts State Police asked local and national television networks to refrain from showing any live video of police movements, and for a time the Federal Aviation Administration restricted news helicopters from hovering above the area where one of the suspects in the bombing of the marathon Monday was believed to be hiding.
Madrigal highlights Reddit’s erroneous identification of Sunil Tripathi:
A few things are for sure: the scanner chatter never mentioned the two false suspects together. The scanner chatter never mentioned them as suspects, either. The scanner chatter recordings contain no record of any mention. And no one has been able to produce any recording of the scanner mentioning Tripathi.
[M]aybe people heard Tripathi’s name, even though police never said it. Many of the people who thought they heard Tripathi’s name already knew about the Reddit-centered suspicions about the student. Police had also said another name earlier in the evening and spelled it out. Perhaps they were primed to hear the name and among the static and unreliable connections to these scanners, they heard what they wanted to hear.
Maybe that’s what I want to believe. Because otherwise, I just don’t understand what happened last night. A piece of evidence that fit a narrative some people really wanted to believe was conjured into existence and there was no stopping its spread.