Tunisia, Egypt: Reporter Relies On Twitter

Knight Digital Media Center

Events in Egypt have been unfolding too fast for traditional narrative-style reporting to keep up. This is where skilled use of social media as a curation tool can help journalists keep up with events—and keep interested audiences in the loop round the clock.

In an interview with Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin explained how he’s been using Twitter to curate many streams of information about the protests in Tunisia and Egypt.

Highlights:
Carvin has averaged 400 tweets a day so far this month—and about 1800 in the past week alone.

Carvin’s Egypt coverage is a continuation of his Tunisia coverage: “Given the time I’ve spent in Tunisia, the number of people I know there, and my own experiences with the regime got me following it a few days after Bouazizi set himself on fire.”

“…Tunisia is so rarely covered by any mainstream media, and yet for several weeks I saw twitter and FB lighting up with one protest after another. And once things started getting violent, around the time of the Kasserine massacre, I really started to try and get my NPR colleagues following along. And that’s about the time I decided to create a Storify collection on Tunisia, since I hadn’t seen anyone else do one.”

Storify is a free tool (still in beta, invitation only) that helps people tell stories by collecting and curating social media such as tweets, photos and videos. You can search multiple social networks from one place, drag individual elements into your story, reorder elements, and add text. Done well, the effect is that you can weave something resembling a coherent (or at least emergent) story from disparate bits of information and context. (A similar tool is Scribble Live, which Al Jazeera English is using.)

Evolution of Carvin’s Coverage:
“I started a Storify for Egypt and gave up in a matter of minutes. For whatever reason I felt completely overloaded by info, so I decided to concentrate on Twitter in real-time, rather than doing a mediocre job at both.

“…When I first started, I was just casually retweeting stuff from sources I found interesting. But as things intensified, I basically decided to drop everything I was working on and focus on capturing as much as possible regarding what was going on there. As the week went on, I found myself putting in 12-15 hour days, getting up really early to catch up on what’d happened overnight, keeping at it until past midnight, then starting again the next morning.”

Added-value for journalism:
“It’s not just a means to get a lot of tweets out there. I see curation as a serious form of narrative—one that we’re just beginning to recognize. I’m still not sure if it’s more art than journalism (or social responsibility for that matter), but I’ve discovered that it’s a medium that I’m at home in. And if I can help inform people in the process, so much the better.

In the interview, Carvin and Zuckerman also discuss other people’s efforts to curate news about Egypt via social media and blogs—as well as how to handle the confusing time-warp “reverberations” that Twitter is prone to during huge breaking news events, and much more.

The complete interview is available via Ethan Zuckerman

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One Comment to “Tunisia, Egypt: Reporter Relies On Twitter”

  1. Amazing post. Thx a lot.

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