By Olivia Ingle
The Working Press
Andy Carvin covered events such as earthquakes, assassination attempts and the Arab Spring uprisings.
For all of those events, he was in the U.S. and provided coverage through Twitter.
Posting on the social media site began as a hobby for Carvin. More than 97,000 tweets later, the hobby has evolved into a profession: senior strategist for National Public Radio.
[caption id="attachment_1383" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Andy Carvin, NPR's Social Media Strategist, answers questions about his Twitter coverage on the Middle East at Tuesday morning's Super Session. Corinne Chin/The Working Press"][/caption]Carvin, who has held the position since 2006, spoke to a crowd Tuesday in the Rhythms Ballroom about his social media coverage of the uprisings in the Middle East and Africa.
On Feb. 2, the day of the Egyptian revolution’s “Battle of the Camel,” Carvin said he found himself tweeting nonstop.
“On that particular day, I tweeted for about 20 hours straight, and I think I hit somewhere around 1,400 tweets,” he said.
It sounds like a lot, but the topic also dominated CNN and Internet outlets, he said.
“No one was keeping track of how many words or how many minutes they were on air,” Carvin said. “It was a story that just needed to be covered.
“I’m simply doing the same thing but on Twitter,” he added.
[caption id="attachment_1384" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Audience members film Andy Carvin's speech. Corinne Chin/The Working Press"][/caption]
He said he didn’t come to NPR as a journalist, and he really doesn’t consider himself one.
“Most of my efforts since I got out of college in 1994 have been focused on experimenting with online communities and how they can make a difference in the world,” he said.
He joined Twitter in February 2007, and he said his tweets have evolved since then.
“Lately I’ve been doing all of this stuff with the Arab Spring and earthquakes and other things that are actually relevant to the world,” he said. “I discovered my first tweet was this: ‘Watching Kayleigh play in her Exersaucer while Susanne rips up some pita for the hummus.’”
Carvin said that’s what Twitter was about back then. It was a “community of people, some who knew each other and some who didn’t, who were ‘kicking the tires’ to try to see what it was all about.”
[caption id="attachment_1385" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Audience members listen to Carvin's speech on Tuesday. Corinne Chin/The Working Press"][/caption]
He gave some advice to journalists using the site.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that the people who follow you on Twitter are your most important asset,” he said. “You’re cultivating sources and building relationships with them.”
He said journalists should be themselves when tweeting and talk about what they’re interested in.
Eddye Gallagher, student publications director at Tarrant County College in Forth Worth, Texas, attended Carvin’s session and said she found it fascinating.
“I loved seeing some of the things he did to use followers to find sources,” she said. “I’m going to take that back to my students.”
Hannah Winston, a University of Florida student, attended the session and said it was interesting to see the progression of Carvin’s tweets through the Arab Spring.
Carvin said he knows his work cannot replace that of field reporters, but it can make a difference.
“I’ve realized that this type of work is important, but it’s a perfect complement to other types of reporting, especially in cases where you can’t rely on just one source on the ground,” he said.