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Right after I read this story last week in The Washington Post, I subscribed to Andy Carvin’s Twitter feed.

Hours later, I unsubscribed. The guy lives up to the billing, and then some.

Carvin, a D.C.-based social media strategist for NPR, has made it his mission to provide updates on happenings in the Middle East. Given the subject matter, the result is a lot of tweets. A lot. I just couldn’t keep up with him.

What’s fascinating is how Carvin uses Twitter to verify information. His followers play an active role in the process. For students, “@acarvin” is worth studying not only as a potential model for how to incorporate Twitter into newsgathering, but also as an example of how to engage citizens.

It’s not a perfect model, of course, as both Post writer Paul Farhi and Carvin himself observe:

“Despite the speed of delivery and breadth of material that Carvin musters every day, the form has its weaknesses. Carvin acknowledges that it’s difficult to know the full context of some of the information he transmits, such as the harrowing footage he linked to last week of a father encountering his dead and disfigured son in a hospital room. The video apparently was from Yemen, but much else — who shot it, under what circumstances and when — was hard to substantiate.

“What’s more, Carvin doesn’t speak Arabic or Farsi, which means he must rely on his followers for translations. He’s also never met about two-thirds of the hundreds of sources he uses for tips and tweets.

“Carvin candidly notes another potential pitfall: He’s far more likely to get information from rebels than from the regimes. ‘The majority of people online [in the Middle East] are young, better-educated and skew toward reform,’ he notes.”

By way of addressing some of that, Carvin says he sticks with reliable sources and makes a point of labeling unconfirmed items. Post blogger Melissa Bell provided a glimpse into Carvin’s process, which speaks to the values of verification and transparency.

While I don’t plan to add “@acarvin” back into my feed, I do keep him in my saved searches so I can visit from time to time. Sa-lute!

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