My thoughts on #reportinglive at #OccupyBoston.
When I first got my iPhone at the beginning of the summer, I thought: “Sweet! Now I can play TETRIS whenever I want, yeah!”
Then I took a video of the Boston Police Department assaulting Veterans for Peace during the first physical crackdown on Occupy Boston, uploaded it to YouTube, tweeted it and it went viral. Now it has over 300,000 views. Little more powerful than Tetris. Even Words With Friends.
I think transparency, or the idea that exposing the truth of what you are reporting on is a critical issue when covering the Occupy movement. I believe it’s one that we all need to pause, turn off our “full throttled” Tweet Decks (#N17 #OWS) and LiveStreams (UStream, TheOther99), and think about.
When this movement first started, I remember my parents were coming up to visit Boston on Oct. 15, when 10,000 gathered in Boston Commons to march on Verizon and Bank of America for the Global Day of Protest. I was there live-tweeting it, tearing up from the spirit of revolution manifested in the chants around me, when my parents called. I had to take a step back and leave—they drove all the way from Pennsylvania to Boston to visit.
Jumping into their car I began talking furiously, telling them the story of how this march was going on in over 80 countries around the world! How it’s a global revolution, about #occupytogether, about the #O15 hashtag exploding on Twitter.
“Isn’t this crazy? Have you been following it too?” I gasped, catching my breath.
“I didn’t even know any of this was happening,” my mom said to me. “I haven’t seen anything on the news, and we watch it every night.”
Since October, mainstream media stations and publications have had no choice but to start covering the Occupy Movement. But you know why? Because the citizen journalists and independent media, using only smart phones, Twitter, YouTube, and Livestreams, totally kicked their butts. They took videos like my first one, and photos, right from the midst of it—photos of the truth, of what’s actually happening. Then they upload and tweet and stream … and instantly, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are now aware of the truth.
My point being: this is what journalism should be. First, the truth. Second, getting the truth to the public.
This whole Occupy movement has not only opened my eyes to the sights and sounds of revolution, but it has shocked me with a revolutionary type of reporting live.
If you think about all of the pivotal images of the protests, the ones that have been most widely circulated, the most grotesque—like the young man protester whose head got smashed, with blood dripping down his face at Occupy Wall Street on Nov. 17 … or the most recent, a young woman getting dragged by her hair by the NYPD …
these are all captured with smart phones and circulating by the hundred thousands on Twitter before the mainstream media even has time to slot the video clips into their 6 o’clock news program.
While police and city officials are beginning all of these new waves of crackdowns across the country, I predict an even more crippling crackdown on the horizon:
the censoring of Youtube videos. It’s already starting.
On 28 Oct., the Huffington Post reported that a U.S. law enforcement agency petitioned Google to take down someone’s YouTube video of police brutality. Google refused to remove the video, their statement given publicly in what is perfectly dubbed their “Transparency Report.” However, the U.S. government requested that Google remove 757 items in the first half of 2011—I can only imagine how many videos they have attempted to remove so far in the SECOND half of this year …
My editor thinks the reason my BPD assaulting the Veterans for Peace video hasn’t risen from 351,312 in weeks is because someone out there has put a hold on it and has tried to stop it from spreading.
This is not good.
The Huffington Post ended their piece perfectly with a quote from the Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen. By refusing to take down brutality videos, Google is setting another important precedent, along with Occupy itself, and new journalism:
“With this report, Google seems to be indicating that users who post such videos have the company’s protection. In places like Egypt and Tunisia, the spread of videos portraying government brutality seems to have galvanized protesters. If Google were to take down such videos, that could have a powerful detrimental effect on the Occupy movement.”
That night, when I saw the Boston Police attacking old men, and Veterans for that matter, all that could be heard were shrieks of protesters being shoved to the ground and one lone Veteran yelling “We are Veterans of the United States of America!”
Horrified, I gripped my iPhone and kept my hand steady, thanking God that I happened to capture this video. Then when a Boston Police officer saw me and asked me to leave, I said sorry and turned to go—then felt myself being shoved from behind. Then felt the cold grass. Then I clutched my iPhone tighter.
Occupy became real for me in that moment.
Without a second thought, I instinctively knew that I needed to get that video onto YouTube and tweet it out to the world, tweet out the truth, what brutality actually looks like—back when no mainstream media stations were covering it. When no other reporters were taking video because they told us we weren’t allowed. They said to leave the area because it’s too dangerous.
Well, as a member of the independent media, and basically just another citizen journalist with an iphone—I didn’t leave. You know what’s even better?
30,000 protestors in NYC with iPhones who are also reporting live to the public.
A revolution of journalism is happening. Right now. And it is critical that we prevent any sort of YouTube crackdown. Because things might get sticky and debatable when it comes to occupying public property—you could make the argument that you’re endangering the safety of others or that other people’s tax money is going to all the police enforcement and so forth.
But you can never argue against every person’s First Amendment rights.
To voice our opinions, to spread the things we see to others if we believe it is important for the public to know, to have access to free information for an informed public—this is the foundation of our entire country.