Carvin is tweeting, relentlessly. Seven days a week, often up to 16 hours a day. He once went 20 hours straight, pumping out more than 1,400 brief messages on his Twitter account, @acarvin. That’s his guess, at least. It’s easy to lose count.
Since December, Carvin, a social-media strategist at NPR in Washington, has become a one-man Twitter news bureau, chronicling fast-moving developments throughout the Middle East. By grabbing bits and pieces from Facebook, YouTube and the wider Internet and mixing them with a stunning array of eyewitness sources, Carvin has constructed a vivid and constantly evolving mosaic of the region’s convulsions.
At a given moment, Carvin may be tweeting links to fresh video from Libyan rebels, photos of street protests in Bahrain or the highlights of a NATO news conference. His followers, in turn, point him to more material — on-the-ground accounts of the government crackdown in Yemen, breaking reports from Tahrir Square, the latest from Jordan or Syria.
The result is a dizzying, nonstop ride across the geopolitical landscape, 140 characters at a time:
• March 31: “Extremely graphic video of a Libyan man with half his jaw blown off, giving a V for victory sign & trying to talk” [link to video].
• April 11: “Video appears to show victims of shootings in Baniyas, Syria. More cameras than there are corpses” [link to video].
• April 9: “At least 10 casualties from tonight’s assault in Sanaa. Can’t really tell who’s alive and who’s dead” [link to Yemeni photo on Facebook].
And so on, into the thousands. “Is this the world’s best Twitter account?” asked the Columbia Journalism Review about @acarvin last week.
Carvin’s high-beam focus on the region has attracted more than 43,000 followers, essentially the readership of a small newspaper. His flock has more than doubled since he started tweeting about the Middle East in December during the first stirrings of rebellion in Tunisia.
Among those following his prodigious output: Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, actress Morgan Fairchild and Chad Ochocinco, the Cincinnati Bengals’ oddball wide receiver.
“It was very clear to me in December that Tunisia would be a big deal,” says Carvin, a stocky 39-year-old who seems to be constantly clicking, tapping or typing, “but it never occurred to me that this could kick off something much, much bigger. My tweeting kind of revved up with it.”
There isn’t really a name for what Carvin does — tweet curator? social-media news aggregator? interactive digital journalist? — but that may be because this form of reporting is still being invented. By Carvin, among others.
“I see it as another flavor of journalism,” he says. “So I guess I’m another flavor of journalist.”