Two weeks ago I wrote an article giving reasons why I was sympathetic and supportive of the Occupy movement. Today, I will give my reasons why I do not Occupy.
Independent Journalist: every time one adds or changes roles in life, there are a host of terms and conditions, traditions and expectations. In the case of written reporting and to a certain extent image choices, one must either write straight news or choose to be and Opinion/Editorial columnist. This traditional position has been bucked by well established bloggers for a decade. I take a position similar to Tim Pool’s. Pool readily admits bias in sympathy with the Occupy movement. I too am sympathetic; however I am interested in covering a broader viewpoint. I was an anthropology student, the study of human culture, in all it’s messy glory fascinates me. I try to keep history, culture and communication in mind while I report on the revolution.
Following closely on the heels of independence; autonomy, as former media working group members of local occupations are discovering. Eventually one way or another, your wings will be clipped or your time will be grossly and needlessly wasted. This has happened with Occupy Wall Street media several times; it has happened to me.
The twin gifts of independence and autonomy allow me to make decisions about how best to cover events or actions. Without autonomy, opportunities would have been lost to amplify the message, to engage on a state-wide and national platform. And most certainly to develop relationships.
The third reason I do not occupy is purely pragmatic. The local occupation is very small, campers inhabit two tents. Ostensibly one designated for men, the other for women. I have never stayed overnight; therefore I do not know if that is a hard and fast tradition. For me, continuous occupation is functionally not practical. I would not be comfortable leaving my equipment unsecured for any length of time. Additionally, I have a couple of arthritic issues which make standing or sitting in one place for any length of time, problematic.
On the other hand, not having spent time as a camping occupier has deprived me of experiential knowledge and insight. That is a condition I intend to remedy eventually, if law enforcement does not make it physically impossible to camp on private property.
Finally, there have been some disappointing controversies within the independent media covering Occupy at large whether for their own local occupation or another city. The history books will remember these incidents as a tempest in a teapot, or growing pains as long as the corpus of new media journalists learn their lessons fast.
- Police baiting should be forbidden by peer consensus. It is not reporting ever. It will attract attention to those around you putting them at risk of law enforcement action. That includes foul language.
- If you report something, even a tweet prepare yourself to answer the question “Where did you hear/see/find that?” Reporting rumor, innuendo and just plain wrong information without a source, correction or an apology is unprofessional and gives our detractors ammunition against us.
- YOU are the only one in any given reporting situation who can determine if it is safe for you to self-identify verbally or via press credentials.
- Replicate yourself whenever and wherever possible. There is no room for ego when it comes to the kind of reporting we do. You need someone to step up in the event you are arrested immediately. If you are new to reporting on social justice or civil unrest, volunteer to help someone who is already established. If you have benefited by hard work and dumb luck as some of us have, promote a journalist who needs a boost.
I would like to add a caution to everyone considering reporting in the field at direct actions, protests, guerrilla theater and marches. Plan very carefully. Distance yourself from anyone who is in a verbal confrontation with law enforcement. Watch your back, go in pairs. Journalists from main stream media and independents both have been targeted and arrested. Know your limits. “Survive to report another day.”