Wed October 19, 2011
The Informal Media Team Behind Occupy Wall Street
Not only are protesters occupying lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, they're also occupying Twitter and other social media sites like Livestream, where visitors to the site can watch live footage from the protests.
The Occupy Wall Street media headquarters are in the midst of the frenzy at Zuccotti Park. Under a giant pink umbrella, a small group of protesters hover over laptops surrounded by mounds of equipment covered in blue tarps. A beaten up cardboard sign rests at their feet, the word "media" written in magic marker.
"We have people that monitor social media such as Twitter and Facebook, people that monitor the news, people that live stream — that's a huge thing, actually, because that's how we get a lot of our news out to our followers," says Colin Laws, a 19-year-old from Connecticut.
A week ago, Laws was watching the streaming video of Zuccotti Park over the Internet on Livestream. And then after weeks of just watching the Global Revolution, as the Livestream channel is called, he sold his TV and all of his video games and bought a bus ticket to New York.
What really brought Laws out to protest, though, was Hero Vincent, a protester-turned live stream broadcaster-turned icon.
"Seeing Hero and all the other people on Livestream, it ended up having me come down to help out with media," Laws says.
An Unofficial Anchor
If the Livestream has news anchors, it seems Hero Vincent is it. Last Friday, right after the city announced it would not evacuate the protesters to clean the park, Vincent addressed the online followers on Livestream:
"We are at a beautiful moment right now. There's thousands of people out here as you can see. We're all standing in solidarity. I'm losing my voice again, unfortunately," he said.
But news anchor is not his formal role: There are no formal roles or any formal schedule. The Occupy media group is as loose as the protest itself.
"It just happens I'm comfortable [in front of the camera] because I'm a performer, so getting in front of the camera [and] trying to inspire people to do stuff is just who I am," Vincent says.
He's got the looks for TV as well: Tall and lanky with big brown eyes and a quick smile. Still, his sudden celebrity seems to surprise even himself.
"This guy walks up to me and he's like, 'Are you Hero?'" Vincent recalls. "And he says, 'Man, I saw your video. The only reason I'm here today is because I saw your video ... can I take a picture with you?'"
Vincent never wanted to be a journalist, if that's what he is. His Livestream fame is just a byproduct of what he really came down on day one of the protests to talk about.
"My family has been foreclosed on. My father's been unemployed [for] a couple years now. My sister's in school with high tuition. It's just been a long time coming; we've been working hard. I've been working since I was 14 just to help my parents put food on the table. So it was inevitable for me to be here," he says.
A Career In The Media?
But for others members of the Occupy Wall Street press corps, this may be a jumpstart into another career in, well, media. If so, they're getting ample training.
"We all do the same things here," says Luke Richardson, who works on the Livestream. "We shoot, we edit, we charge batteries, we put up tarps when it rains, we keep people from stealing our equipment. It's constant work."
Richardson was previously working as a waiter. Four days into protesting he quit his job; we didn't get into the ironies of quitting work to protest unemployment. Richardson says this might be career advancement, just a career he had never considered before.
"I've been thinking about it a lot: How [can I] parlay this into some way to sustain myself? Because I do have bills to pay, and I love this and I want to keep doing it," he says.
Richardson is not alone. Several members of the media team, from an antique dealer to an English master's student, are suddenly reconsidering their future careers. And for Colin Laws, the kid who sold his TV to pay his way to New York, Hero Vincent wasn't the only reason he left Connecticut.
"Another reason I came down here was because I'm looking to become a journalist and I was going to go to school for it but this was going on. And I did not want to wait," Laws says.
Not only has the Occupy Wall Street movement spread from city to city, live streaming has caught on around the world, too; there are now demonstrations streaming live from Los Angeles to London.