Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Evolution of News-Gathering in Real Time

If you are interested in developments in North Africa and the Middle East and/or the evolution of journalism and you're not following Andy Carvin on Twitter, you should.

The Guardian has a profile on him.
Andy Carvin is getting a little sick of talking about which verb best describes what he does. "It's somewhere between reporting and collaborative network journalism, and George Plimpton-like oral history, except that I'm doing it in real time in 140 characters. I don't know what to call that and I don't care as long as people don't waste my time trying to give it a name."

Whatever Carvin's particular brand of news gathering should be called, it has made him a must-read source on the Arab uprisings – and possibly the most talked about person at SXSW. "All roads now lead to Andy Carvin," declared media critic Jeff Jarvis at a discussion on the future of news.

(SXSW is an annual festival held in Austin, TX. Carvin was there recently, still tweeting.)

Many, if not most by now, journalists use Twitter, but nobody does it like Andy.
Although Carvin had a network of blogger contacts in the region whom he used to check information being tweeted, what marks him out is his willingness to retweet unverified material and ask his followers for help to establish its accuracy. "I admit that I don't know the answer to things and see users as potential experts and eyewitnesses. In some ways what I'm doing is not that different from a broadcast host doing a breaking live story with a producer in one ear, talking to pundits and all the while anchoring the coverage, but rather than producers I have followers."

Imagine that, friends of truthiness. Fact-checking! As opposed to making shit up.

Here's an example:
"I see my Twitter account as a newsgathering operation and the success or failure rate is clearly tied to the expertise of the people who follow me. I would rather have almost no one following me and have them all be experts than have a million followers."

That expertise was highlighted recently when he tweeted a request for help identifying a photograph from Benghazi of "a guy holding up the biggest bullet I had ever seen". After some discussion among his followers, US military serviceman sent him a link to an image of a Russian anti-aircraft round that matched it perfectly. "There is no way that I or anyone else at NPR could have done that on our own."

Or so quickly.

It will be fascinating to see if this catches on. And in the meantime, it's just plain fascinating to follow Andy Carvin.


deBeauxOs said...

I've been following him for about 2 weeks now & have learned about events in Libya as they unfolded in real time, from his tweets.

fern hill said...

Yeah. It makes watching/reading/hearing news kinda boring. I think, 'Hell, I've known that since last night.'

Pseudz said...

What market was Twitter originally designed to serve? The un-alloyed immediacy of it is going to make the legions of spin-hacks awfully nervous.

Is there any way to protect the medium from the assaults which may be being planned by vested interests?

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