There's a common didacticism in journalism, which runs to the tune of "If you become the story, you're probably telling it wrong".
On Friday, a pack of journalists entered the home of the suspects of the San Bernardino shootings, in which 14 people were killed.
Toby Harnden, a British-American journalist for The Sunday Times, opened the property first by removing the boards over the entrance with a screwdriver and a crowbar.
Reporters from CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBS News and others then entered the property, broadcasting live TV, photographing and filming as they re-positioned objects and filtered through belongings.
The actions were met with shock and disdain by many, who felt the scene was handled insensitively.
The image of the screwdriver, broadcast on CNN, caused momentary confusion when people believed it to be an ice lolly.
Harnden clarified the situation on Twitter saying he was given permission to enter the property by the landlord:
(Picture: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
At one point during the MSNBC broadcast, a driver's license of a woman who was not a suspect, but a relative, was shown, causing anchor Andrea Mitchell to urge restraint to her camera operator.
The journalists say that the landlord had given them permission to enter the property, and the FBI confirmed at a later press conference that they had returned authority of the apartment back to the owners, following the search.
FBI assistant director David Bowdich said:
Last night we turned that over back to the residents. Once we’re out, we don’t have control of it.
The FBI director James B. Comey said:
I think I’m neither unhappy nor happy.
When we are done with a location, we return it to their rightful owners and we have to leave an inventory under the law about what was taken. So, people got to see our great criminal justice system in action.
The Guardian have reported that although one of their journalists was present at the scene, the journalist did not enter the property.
However, this is unlikely to be seen as a saving grace during a half hour that will only reinforce the stereotypical view of the media mob.