News & Politics

NPR’s Twitter Maven Andy Carvin Says He Will Probably Take Buyout

Carvin, who reported the Arab Spring over social media, will most likely leave at the end of 2013. Veteran newsreader Jean Cochran is out, too.

Taking the buyouts announced last month at NPR are longtime producer and news reader Jean Cochran and off-mike veterans Stu Seidel and Kee Malesky. The surprise on the list is social media guru Andy Carvin, who has only been with the organization seven years, and has become a well-known figure online for his coverage of the Arab Spring, helping to expand the role of social media in newsgathering.

Carvin submitted his name for a voluntary buyout in September, when NPR announced its intention to reduce staff by 10 percent. Carvin said today on his personal website that NPR made him an offer. Carvin, 42, is still mulling whether to accept, he said in an interview with Washingtonian, but says he’s more likely to leave NPR after seven years than stay on.

“While a part of me will always love this institution, there are probably other things I can do that would be a new challenge,” Carvin says. “Seven years is also a long time, a hell of a lot has changed in so many ways.”

As NPR’s senior social media strategist, Carvin built up a hefty Twitter following—now close to 100,000—especially in 2011 during the Arab Spring protests when he tweeted—with impeccable accuracy—the latest updates from Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya without appearing to take a rest. He just donated the iPhone he used to bang out tens of thousands of 140-character updates about the protests to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.

Carvin says that when he started at NPR in 2006, “social media” was still a barely known concept in journalism. NPR was his first formal journalistic foray after more than a decade of building online communities around social causes or natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. He says he realized Twitter could be a force in breaking news during the early days of the Arab Spring.

“A lot of the organizing worked well in breaking news stories especially when theres a critical mass on the ground who can serve as eyewitnesses,” he says. “I was lucky enough to know some people early on who were willing to share stories. It just blossomed from there.”

If Carvin does leave NPR, he says he will look for a venture that lets him “tell some really great stories” through social media and online organizing. True to form, he is taking suggestions from the crowd. Ideas left by readers of his blog range from starting his own social news company to launching an store on Etsy.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.