After a winter of extensive planning, the Occupy movement will launch its own online news site later this month. Occupy.com, which has the associative meaning of "occupying the commons," will go online in late March, according to Michael Levitin, 35, a founding editor of an earlier Occupy newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal.
The lead story on the launch edition will tell the story of a recent court victory in West Virginia where retirees of Century Aluminum won a $40 million suit against the company for cutting their benefits.
"This is a national, 99% story of people in their 60s to 80s who ended up living on the roadside. We want to tell the stories of people who are suffering and to touch people emotionally," Levitin explained.
He spoke March 16 at an event in Santa Rosa, California, hosted by the forthcoming Occupied Press / North Bay (a.k.a.Prensa Ocupada/Bahia Norte.)
"We need an Occupy media to report the national and international evolution of this fast-moving movement," Levitin observed earlier in the day during an interview in the nearby town of Sebastopol, in Sonoma County.
Sunday, he noted, is the six month anniversary of Occupy, which was launched Sept. 17 at Zuccotti Park in New York by Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Only two weeks later its free press, the Occupied Wall Street Journal hit the streets, surprising many with its loyalty to the print medium.
"The main thing that Occupy.com will do is crystalize the Occupy message--make it plain, clear, and simple. We will seek to engage people and give them many options for how to get involved. We need ways for members of the 99% to participate and thus grow the movement," Levitin explained.
Private funding has covered Occupy.com's startup costs and is paying a 10-person team living wages for at least three months to build a complex website.
"Once we get our product out there, we will use that to raise more funds. We do not plan to have ads," Levitin explained. They will include a calendar of events and promote actions and projects, highlighting solutions.
The Occupied Wall Street Journal raised $75,000 within a week to get its first issue out.
"This was evidence of a hunger to have the Occupy story told," Levitin noted.
A graduate of Columbia University's prestigious journalism school, he was previously a freelancer for Newsweek, The LA Times, Associated Press and other news publications.
"They have sold out. They tell the stories of the people in power. So we need to occupy the press," Levitin asserted.
Occupy.com does not plan to have a print edition.
"We want to harness the power of online journalism. We do not need corporate journalists to tell our stories. Their journalism failed us -- it did not report on financial inequities and corporate criminals who bankrupted our country," Levitin opined.
He said that Occupy.com plans to be broad-based and report on the issues that Occupy raises. It will include personal stories about corporate abuse, economic injustice, and accountability by financial over-lords. It will publish human interest and community stories that put a human face on the movement. Video, photographs, music and other creative genre will be included, as well as material on the environment and climate change.
"We will report the corruption and balance that with the good things that people are doing to make things better," Levitin said.
Although over a dozen Occupy newspapers currently exist and up to 20 online publications, "Occupy groups need to connect more," he said. "Autonomy is good, but we need to coordinate things. We are young and new. We need to use the social media better. We do not even know how long the internet will be free."
Occupy.com will aggregate material from some other Occupy publications and alternative media outlets, including content from Occupy groups in London, Athens, Barcelona, India and elsewhere, creating "a hub, a clearinghouse, a platform," Levitin explained.
"We want to bring forward Occupy news, but it will be a much broader platform. It will include the cultural creativity of the movement through video, music, visual and performing art, and poetry," Levitin promised.
Levitin was back in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he was raised, to visit family and consult with local Occupy groups. He spoke with students at Sonoma State University, San Francisco State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa Junior College.
"Students want to feel they can participate in some constructive way, rather than just shout at corporations. We need to see the injustice, abuse, and limitations on our freedoms. People can get depressed and inactive by the bad news. We have to show what we can do constructively, like grow good food," he said.
"We need people power over corporate power," Levitin asserted in his Santa Rosa talk. "One of the most important things to occupy is the media. We need a new kind of story-telling. Newspapers have deceived us for decades. We need to explain better what justice, freedom, and economic equality mean. We need to use a language that everyone can understand."
Levitin will be back in New York on March 24 to help launch 'Earth Month with an action at the United Nations seeking to disrupt "dirty power," one of the first planned for the spring and summer of 2012.
Off the Bus reporter Shepherd Bliss farms, teaches college, and has contributed to many books. If you would like to contribute as a citizen journalist to The Huffington Post's coverage of American political life, please contact us at www.offthebus.org.
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