Occupy D.C. protesters get their words out — on paper

November 9, 2011

The most interesting thing about the two newspapers (yes, there are two) published by the demonstrators occupying the District may not be their message so much as their medium.

The papers — the Occupied Washington Times and the Occupied Washington Post — are actually that: good old-fashioned print publications, with pictures, headlines and articles written in type that rubs off on your fingers, just as it did when another group of American rabble-rousers was getting the word out a few centuries ago.

Why print? Didn’t the social-media whippersnappers get the tweet about print being Granddad’s medium, not to mention an environmentally dubious product of Big Paper and Big Ink?

“People have to look for a Web site,” says Sam Jewler, 23, a member of the five-person editorial team behind the Occupied Times, a 10,000-copy free tabloid that debuted Monday from the folks occupying McPherson Square. “This is something we can put in their hands. Someone who is just mildly curious can pick this up just walking down the street.”

As for the message, both papers, naturally, self-report on their movement’s goals and concerns. The Occupied Post, whose masthead mimics this newspaper’s nameplate (no copyright complaints from the real Post yet), spells it out in a big, two-deck banner headline: “WE STAND WITH THE MAJORITY: Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed.” The lead story ticks off demands including higher taxes on the wealthy, cuts in the defense budget and reform of campaign-finance laws.

Both papers are produced on a shoestring, with all-volunteer staffs and donated funds (the Times got its money from individuals; the Post, from individuals and groups such as Veterans for Peace). The Occupied Times’s first issue cost $1,200; the Post, which is produced by the group occupying Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, printed 4,000 copies for $800. Both were produced by the same printer in New York. There are no ads; both papers reject them.

Of the two, the Occupied Times seems to be the livelier and newsier. Its front page veers a bit off message to include a story about D.C. Council member Jack Evans’s (D-Ward 2) dual role as an elected official and as a lawyer advising real estate clients. An inside page offers short, man-on-the-street-style profiles of some of the men and women who are on (or at least occupying) the street.

Although the publications agree on most things, they’ve also agreed to remain separate, says Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the Freedom Plaza group. “We may work together on some things,” Zeese says. But in this case, he says, two voices are better than one.

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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