More break-the-story-box news tools: Andy Carvin, Twitter, and Egypt

Form follows function — which is why when traditional journalism tries to shoehorn fast-breaking, multidirectional events that unfold via social media into traditional narrative stories, it often flattens (and sometimes skews) the experience.

This is why I like tools that allow reporters and others to break “story box” by creating real-time collages that combine original reporting and commentary with curated contributions from social media and elsewhere.

The past month, NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin has been doing this via Twitter — first for the Tunisia uprising, and now with the Egyptian revolution. Today Berkman Center research Ethan Zuckerman published an excellent interview with Carvin exploring why he’s been posting an average of 400 tweets daily for the last month, and what others can learn from his efforts.

I summarized some highlights from this interview that might especially interest news professionals over at the Knight Digital Media Center site.

See: How NPR’s Andy Carvin is using Twitter to tell Egypt’s story

How mobile devices and social media changed Tunisia

WeMedia writes:

Before we get all Twittered about the events in Tunisia, let’s put the Jasmine Revolution in perspective. After decades of repression and economic turmoil, a citizen’s act of defiance sparked a people’s uprising that ousted an oppressive regime. Citizens demonstrated. Citizens were killed. Citizens changed their government. Let’s not trivialize them as gadgets or hashtags.

What is revealing about this revolution is the way in which citizens discovered it, how they informed one another, and how they mobilized around it. They used their mobile phones, now ubiquitous in North Africa, to communicate via text messaging and Twitter.

…Only Al Jazeera, the Arab-language news network based in Qatar, seemed to recognize the growing tempest in Tunisia and the implications for the rest of the Arab world. By reading the blogs, following the tweets and using its mobile phones, Al Jazeera found signs of political ferment both in Africa and in the Islamic world fed by economic distress, political repression, and young people with the tools — including mobile phones and Internet — to make changes.

“I am certain its (the revolution’s) success is entirely correlated to the ubiquity of the mobile phone and the Internet,” blogged Aly-Khan Saatchu, an investments banker based in Nairobi.

See: The revolution within the revolution: How mobile devices and social media changed Tunisia