All Andy Carvin has ever done during his time at NPR is change the very nature of how news is covered.
Carvin used Twitter to cover stories that most of the U.S.-centric media couldn’t be bothered telling at the time — the Arab Spring, for example — by monitoring Twitter, filtering and checking facts, and allowing his many followers to experience the news in the first person. He’d engage his followers and actually encourage two-way communication in the covering of news.
In his coverage of the Arab Spring, it started with an image of a woman in Tunisia holding a sign.
“I assumed, in this particular case, that it was a protest slogan of some sort,” he told On the Media. “So I asked one of these guys I knew on Twitter who was involved in protests and I said, could you translate this for me? Before he could reply, a bunch of other people in the region did. And it really struck me at that moment that I don’t need to be driving one or two people crazy on Twitter, asking them to answer one question after another. Instead, if I just share more openly what I know and what I don’t know, someone out there will probably come out and have an answer.”
The phone he used to do all of this is now in the Smithsonian.
He also has allowed his fans to get to know him as a person — heresy in the high falutin’ world of journalism — and follow his experiences as his daughter was diagnosed with autism.
He’s been described as a “news DJ,” and describes himself as a “journalistic test pilot.”
“I experiment with new ways of conducting journalism and figure out what works and what doesn’t,” he told Smithsonian.
You know what doesn’t work? Experimenting with new ways of conducting journalism.
He’s been offered a buyout from NPR, which is shedding 10 percent of its workforce.
He writes on his blog today that he hasn’t decided whether to take the deal, although he sounds as though his time at NPR is over.
“I’ve had the honor of serving at NPR for seven years, and while it’ll be hard to top that, no doubt there (are) many exciting opportunities out there worth exploring. Would love to hear all of your thoughts on what I should tackle next,” he said.
Carvin’s expansion of crowdsourced journalism is just the sort of thing that scares mainstream media, even as it pretended to embrace social networks.
“Restrictive social-media policies put in place by many of these outlets seem designed to remove as many of the elements of being human as possible from the practice of being a journalist — which I think is the exact opposite of what needs to happen if traditional journalism is to survive,” Mathew Ingram wrote last year. “And I think Andy Carvin is a pretty good example of what one possible future of real-time, crowdsourced journalism actually looks like.”
The future is past.