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NPR’s Carvin Talks ‘Social’ to Journalists

‘The only way we can find out, is to try it out.’

Andy Carvin addressed attendees on the importance of social media at this year’s Excellence in Journalism convention, an event sponsored by the Radio Television Digital News Association and Society of Professional Journalists, which wrapped up Tuesday.

Nicknamed the guru of “the new age newswire,” Carvin is senior strategist at NPR. What Carvin finds most attractive about social media are the possibilities for collaboration. “I don’t know how to work without asking help from people,” he said during his address.

Carvin joined NPR in 2006 from the Digital Divide Network, where he addressed information access issues for the United Nations, and in North Africa and South Asia. He began using Twitter in 2007. Upon being stranded in an airport on the day of Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Carvin was able to access reliable, corroborated information in real time via Twitter.

From that experience, Carvin says, he harnessed the power of Twitter. In 2008 he used NPR audience members as fact-checking sources on claims made during the during the U.S. presidential debates.

Later, Carvin defused a potentially eruptive situation involving rumored bomb shells sold to Libyans by Israelis. Recovered munitions from the sale bore a six-pointed star, which Carvin’s Twitter followers were able to identify as an illumination shell. These shells are fired to provide light to troops in the dark, and are not explosive devices.

Carvin encouraged conventioneers to engage the virtual crowd in these new social media. “The only way we can find out, is to try it out.”