_It’s now obvious that the Occupy Wall Street movement has captured the public eye. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the nationwide movement filled 10 percent of the overall big media newshole Oct. 10-16, up from 7 percent the previous week and from just 2 percent the week before that. With coverage during that time in outlets from the Santa Cruz Sentinel to the Huffington Post, Occupy Santa Cruz proves no exception to the national trend. But is the media getting it right?
“In general, the mainstream media has had a very difficult time framing Occupy for the same reason that detractors have found it easy to criticize us: the movement is novel and very unlike any previous protest movement,” says Andy Moskowitz, a member of Occupy Santa Cruz’s media working group. “It’s hard, for this reason, to write a traditional hook, a traditional 600–word newspaper story or 120–second television brief. And it’s hard to see what we’re about until you approach us at street level.” Thya Shea, another member of the media working group, adds, “There’s been a lot of generalizations because people aren’t able to peg it down. People don’t know how to report on it. I don’t think [these generalizations] accurately depict what we’re doing.”
Like the protests that took place in Egypt and Israel earlier this year, and on which some say Occupy Wall Street was originally based, Occupy Santa Cruz has heavily relied upon alternative forms of media to get the word out in the way the members of movement themselves see fit—an approach that has proven quite successful. “Within the first four days that the Facebook page was up, there were like 750 likes,” Shea says. “Ten days later was [our first] General Assembly and 300 people showed up, advertised purely through Facebook. I remember saying [before the General Assembly], ‘We’ll see what a like on Facebook means in person . . . whether people actually get off of their couches for it,’ and in this community, they did.” The page now has over 5,000 likes. “I visit the Facebook page like 900 times a day,” laughs David Schlesinger, another member of the media working group.
The media working group is still brainstorming ways to broadcast their message. They’re hoping to create “a more democratic newsmedia” on their website, occupysantacruz.org. “We’re trying to allow people to directly voice their opinion . . . we’d like our publication to not just represent the General Assemblies, but also the diversity of the people [that attend them],” Moscowitz says. He explains that it’s a difficult task because “a lot of people have a lot of things they’d like to say about Occupy Santa Cruz, but we can’t publish everything having it look like it represents the group [as a whole].” They thus plan to accept “community reporting” through a contact form on the site, letting individuals send in essays, photos or videos. “Our occupation is far less about the Federal Reserve than it is about us,” says Moscowitz. “It’s our connections, it’s our process, it’s our working groups, it’s our shared meals and campouts that make this movement newsworthy and revolutionary.”
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly: