By Anne Collier
There’s great material for a media literacy class (or dinner-table discussion) in Twitter these days – both traditional and new media literacy – especially if you and your kids or students follow Andy Carvin (@acarvin), NPR’s senior strategist for digital media. I’ve seen hundreds of tweets and retweets by Andy as I’ve been following the protest movement in Egypt and around the Middle East. Today a tweet about the protests in Bahrain: “Video verified? Bahrain crowd waving flags, chanting. Riot police don’t engage. Text below video list demands. http://youtu.be/FN8pjJwLdu8.” See those first two words, “Video verified?” That’s what makes following Andy and other trained journalists valuable: They’re visibly questioning the material, fact-checking out loud, if you will. This, for the media literate, is a new kind of fact-checking, this real-time, collaborative kind, but fact-checking all the same – and it’s overt, teaching young people following events the importance and value of thinking critically. By following Andy, media lit learners not only get pre-screened realtime news from the ground (he personally knows a number of the Twitter “reporters,” or activists on the ground, whose observations he retweets), over time they start to develop the kind of news sense some of us had to learn at news organizations: what’s important or worth repeating, who the source is, what needs checking, what’s the context, etc. And, about half-way through an interview he gave The Atlantic – where his response begins with “I use Tweetdeck for the most part” – Andy describes his curating process, so teachers and students can learn by doing, by being collaborative news curators themselves. Just start by taking 5 min. to set up a Twitter account (if you haven’t already) and following @acarvin, then figuring out together who else to follow. [This is not rocket science – social media is all about learning as you go, trial and error, baby steps … but enough with the cliches!: it’s about figuring out stuff together because – and we can be honest about this – these days, in this shrinking, info-overloaded world, nobody’s truly a total expert (and students get this).] BTW, this isn’t just media studies, this is history we’re watching. I hope it’s turning up in lots of social studies classes too!
What we’re talking about, here, isn’t “the new journalism,” I think, as The Atlantic asks; it’s a new layer of journalism, an additional editorial service that social media allow. I don’t think it replaces anything, at least not yet. It’s an intelligent response to new conditions – an example of digital wisdom (which I wrote about here). “We” (humanity) are figuring out a collaborative, interdependent way to get accurate “reporting” in realtime. And while it’s a form of reporting, it’s also activism – all the more reason why curation is needed. Anyway, the story of Andy’s real-time news curation, has also been told at NiemanLab.org and just this past weekend in the New York Times’s Media Coder blog.