NPR’s Carvin stands by Twitter coverage of Newtown shooting

By Mike Janssen

Did NPR’s tweeter extraordinaire Andy Carvin go overboard during the media frenzy surrounding the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn.? Michael Wolff made that argument in a column for the Guardian newspaper, accusing Carvin of becoming “a fevered spreader of misinformation.”

Andy Carvin

Carvin

Carvin, who gained widespread recognition for his tweeting during the Arab Spring, sent out more than 300 tweets following minute-by-minute developments in the Newtown shooting. The tweets included “a rather broad range of bollocks,” Wolff wrote, citing in particular a retweet about a purple van that was later abandoned as a lead, and a few other instances.

“While the guise is to retweet in order to verify, the effect is to propagate,” wrote Wolff, whose objections went beyond inaccuracy to what he sees as Carvin’s “self-righteousness” and “self-dramatizing.”

In response to a question from Current, Carvin reviewed his tweets and replied as follows:

If I had to do it all again, I would still tweet all of them. I spent all day asking people to cite sources, as well as tweeting what news orgs were reporting. I used the exact same techniques I always have: documenting what people on the ground are saying, capturing the emotion of those affected by it, and documenting the reporting process of everyone covering it, including any mistakes that are made. The main thing I regret is not reminding my followers about my methods on a routine basis, because I had a jump in followers over the course of the day, and I can totally understand that my methods may seem strange for the first-time follower.

I’ve done this technique online for over two years now. During that time I’ve developed a follower base that is as skeptical as I am. They help me find sources, verify claims or debunk them. The only way to do that is to acknowledge what rumors are circulating and who is reporting them. No one ever said that Twitter is a newswire. I see it as my work space, an open-source news desk where the public can see how news is gathered and information is scrutinized.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9391112 Greg Petersen

    While I can certainly appreciate this new way of reporting (what else can you call it but reporting if it emanates from a news source — in this case NPR) it gives me pause that crowd-sourcing is given so much credence. Some reports may indeed be true, and some, indeed, are false. It also gives me pause that in this methodology, “getting it first” appears to trump “getting it right.”

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