Reuters editor Matthew Keys defends himself on police scanner tweets; Updated!/TheMatthewKeys/status/325144034899263490!/TheMatthewKeys/status/325141103210807296

Under fire for those two now-deleted tweets, Reuters Deputy Social Media Editor Matthew Keys is defending himself.

His Facebook post reads in part:

A) Late Thursday night / early Friday morning, there were a lot of social journalists on Twitter who were publishing what they heard on the scanner. I’m not going to name any names, but if you do your homework, you’ll easily see there were several prominent social journalists and breaking news accounts tweeting details from the scanner.

B) The Boston Police Department never put out a press release, nor did they publish a tweet, asking people not to publish information heard over emergency scanner traffic. The Boston Police Department Twitter published a tweet that said: “#MediaAlert: WARNING – Do Not Compromise Officer Safety/Tactics by Broadcasting Live Video of Officers While Approaching Search Locations.” They published this twice. Nowhere does it mention scanner traffic.

C) When people became upset, I said on Twitter I hadn’t seen the CBS News report that everyone was sourcing in which the Boston Police supposedly asked people not to publish scanner traffic. With a focus on four different video streams, several Twitter lists and, yes, dispatch audio, it slipped by me. But once I became aware of it, I stopped. In fact — having been awake well over 24 hours, with 10 of them covering the overnight event — I closed the computer and went to bed.

Click here for the whole thing.

We don’t always see eye to eye with Keys, and if he committed criminal acts we think he should be prosecuted.  But with regard to citing scanner traffic, he is right. On Thursday night/Friday morning, many of us on all sides of the political aisle wrote about what we heard on the Boston P.D. scanner. (See, e.g., this.)

Keys was hardly unique, and neither he nor others in old media or new media did anything wrong.

Both mainstream journos and new media journos were doing exactly the same thing on Friday night as law enforcement closed in on fugitive bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Chicago Sun Times:

Sports Illustrated:

Bleacher Report:


It wasn’t just journalists. On Friday night, more than a quarter million people were tuned into public police scanner traffic at one point. Over the course of the entire evening, a total of 2.5 million listeners listened in:

Police scanners are public as a matter of accountability and practical logistics. Encryption would greatly limit interoperability in times of crisis when several different levels of law enforcement and government need to communicate with each other.

Oh, and for all the criticism new media journalists are getting for sharing the information with their audiences, old media has relied on scanners for years.

“In the end, our position is that [eliminating access to police scanner frequencies] harms public access,” [Gregg Leslie, legal defense director at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press] says. “There’s a lot of public good done by letting the media and the public know what first responders are up to and it’s a shame that that could all go away.”


Named: Suspects identified on police scanner as Mike Mulugeta, Sunil Tripathi; One ‘suspect is running’; Update: NBC reports Tripathi is not a suspect; Second suspect still at large, ID’d as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Left, Right, journos all passed along incorrect Boston Police Dept. scanner information

* * *


Reuters fired Keys today. According to Keys, his police scanner tweets were one of the reasons given for his termination. 

If tweeting police scanner information is now a firing offense, why was Keys singled out?



  • Neill Augustine

    Oh, horseshit! That scanner isn’t there to do your job for you, the scanner is your jumping-off point, it shows you where you should be focusing your investigative or deductive powers, such as they may be.

    If you’re going to sit on your fat duff in your robe and BVD’s at home and tell the city what they can hear for themselves, maybe you need to find a new job, one that offers a little challenge.

    Rotely parroting every single dispatch as they come in, every location the police are reporting from, every covered boat they’re approaching under cover of darkness, you run the very real risk of alerting the perp who may be listening to a news feed on a radio app on his smart phone (something I might do if I were in the business of breaking the law on a regular basis).

    Just use common sense, if they say don’t show Police approaching a location, for instance, try to imagine what might be the next logical step they would ask for you to refrain from, IF THEY THOUGHT YOU NEEDED EVERY SINGLE THING SPELLED OUT FOR YOU LIKE A GRADE SCHOOL CHILD.

  • Charles Smith

    Slight off subject but, doesn’t anybody think it’s strange that the law some how lost these guys in an action packed car chase that occurred in a city on lock down? There is Youtube footage every week of down-on-their-luck or just plain nutty Americans trying to rob 7-11’s. Where is the footage of this event? If they had a visual of the surviving suspect running over his brother, what happened next? These two were super spy jihadist apparently, with the ultimate get away techniques.

    • Jd1367

      The city wasn’t on lock down during the initial pursuit/shootout. Also, they didn’t rob the 7/11

      • Charles Smith

        It was reported later that they didn’t rob the 711, true. But they were there. So again, eyewitness reports tell a different story that deserves to be heard.

  • Randi Starr

    only police scanners devotees I know can’t get out of their recliners and live their dream life thru a box…………

  • Alexander Mitchell

    My understanding of radio scanner law, from decades ago when using them for railroad and aviation work, is that one has the complete right to listen to any transmissions they may want for any reason, but that the listener may neither use the information gained for personal profit/gain (think an accident-chasing ambulance or tow truck service), NOR DISSEMINATE THE INFORMATION GAINED TO OTHERS. Police matters get a little dicey–public information versus what the law states.
    Anyone have more up-to-date chapter-and-verse of FCC law in regards to the matters?

  • mickeyco

    I googled this guy, mainly because he looks about 12. (He’s 26.) But, he was charged in March (latest info I can find) by the DOJ for helping Anonymous hack Reuters. Obviously, Reuters suspended him. Anybody have an update? Twitchy in particular?

    • ZoriahShepard

      He just got fired. He’s filing a grievance.

      • mickeyco

        Thanks, Zoriah.

    • QAX3kFmH

      He helped a group hack his own website?

  • Marcy Cook

    No one should have needed to be told not to report on this sensitive information. If he had any common sense he would know this was a severe emergency situation that REQUIRED you to keep your mouth shut and not reveal to the enemy what is going on. Loose lips sink ships.

  • LegalizeShemp

    I was taught that police scanner info can be legally listened to, but if you repeat any of it, or act on it, that can be illegal. ??

  • stillinthe60s

    Media dipsticks reliably relying on police scanners for accurate info to fill air are as insufficiently responsible as a president who relies on tele-prompters to fill the air between his ears.

  • disqus_FlD2VMR2RJ

    Journalists are always trying to “scoop” each other. Well, they all scooped horse shit using a police scanner as their “primary source.” Given their professionalism, I bet they could screw up writing an obituary.

  • jetch

    so he’s not a journalist, he’s a “social journalist”, huh? can’t follow the rules of journalism (verify your information) so just call yourself something different that doesn’t have those same rules. sounds like a pretty good gig.
    oh and because you didn’t get the police warning via twitter, it doesn’t count because uhhh, that’s apparently the only way to receive official information.
    this guy is an idiot with a job that only exists because people are too afraid of sounding old by saying the job is nonsense.

  • jetch

    just noticed the last part of the article regarding the need for public access to police scanners. that’s all good, except he wasn’t using the scanner to make the police accountable, he was trying to get a scoop. he wanted to be the first to report something (as if it really makes a difference when everyone will report the same thing within minutes).
    holding the police accountable is noble, snooping on the scanner trying to be the first to report something is not…