What journalism students should learn from Andy Carvin

NPR’s Andy Carvin

I hope all journalism students have been paying attention to the work of NPR’s Andy Carvin, who, in the last months, has been tweeting and retweeting news, videos and messages from many of the world’s current uprisings (including extensive coverage of the situation in Libya). Tweeting by the minute, Carvin has clearly embraced the digital tool and might just be pointing the media in the direction of the future as far as content delivery and curation goes. Like any other method of reporting, though, Carvin’s Twitter-based strategy has both clear advantages and limitations.

Seemingly on every journalist’s list of the reasons why Twitter is such a great tool is its ability to act as a go-to source. Were I a reporter for a major outlet, I would certainly look to Carvin’s curated material as a starting point. Essentially, his tweets have formed an archive of information relating to the world’s uprisings that serve as documentation in an extremely unedited and raw form

From a consumer standpoint, however, it is this raw nature of Carvin’s reporting that should make journalists pause before employing live-tweeting as a sole reporting method. It’s evident from visiting @acarvin‘s feed, that it is often necessary to wade through several tweets before obtaining an entire story or piece of information. Further, with an incredible number of tweets coming out daily from Carvin, it’s tough to follow his feed without feeling swamped. The reporting is great for news junkies and journalists who are both plugged into the medium and have the interest and time required to analyze the content, but I don’t think it would be out of line to say that Carvin’s feed isn’t user-friendly for the average consumer.

Now, Carvin’s 41,331 (as of this writing) followers on Twitter show that there is momentum behind his strategy, so it definitely cannot be written off. Many people clearly enjoy the short blasts of information as their news source and Carvin does a great job of providing. It also helps that globally, the rest of the media covers the story as well, providing the more traditional packaged coverage. But for the enterprising young journalists in Indianola, IA, a choice must be made as to how much time will be spent employing new media to tell stories and how much time will be spent packaging and delivering stories in a more traditional manner. So, keeping both the advantages and disadvantages to the strategy in mind, I came up with a few tactics that succeed for Carvin and adapted them in ways that I think would be most successful. The key is combining innovation with the tried-and-true to present news in the most consumer friendly format possible.

1. Carvin does a great job of retweeting information from the people he follows, giving his feed a very communal feel. Town newspapers and independent journalists could definitely employ this technique, keeping in mind that it’s essential that each retweet add a very clear piece to the narrative.

2. Throughout or at the end of a live tweeting period, journalists should take the time to examine the narrative in their tweets and write it as a traditionally packaged news story on a blog. This offers consumers a far more summarized version of the tweets and is especially useful if followers could not read all the information throughout the live tweeting session.  

3. Tweets should offer some sort of content, be it a picture, video or simply information. Color is definitely okay, however, while following Carvin’s feed, too often there are simply retweets of someone’s opinion on Gaddafi. For Carvin, it’s necessary to document these opinions for historical purposes, however, for a standard reporter, it’s important to offer more. I think colorful opinions paired with good content is great!

Take these tips as you may and let me know if you have any of your own ideas. Certainly don’t think that I am discounting Carvin’s work. As I stated earlier, his reporting has been revolutionary for journalism and his curation will ensure that this time in history is documented for years to come. But like all things, this method of reporting will continue to involve and improve and for journalism students, it remains hugely important that we are part of the conversation.


2 responses to “What journalism students should learn from Andy Carvin

  1. >That's an outstanding and insightful analysis, Grant. Very well said. I agree with just about everything you said.

  2. >Thanks Steven, I appreciate the feedback!

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