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New Documentary Explores The Role Of Citizen Journalism During Occupy Wall Street

#whilewewatch is a new film directed by Kevin Breslin that discusses how OWS challenged traditional news reporting.

Ruben Sun
Ruben Sun on February 20, 2012.

We recently attended a screening of #whilewewatch, a documentary by Kevin Breslin, Director of “Living for 32” and son of famed journalist Jimmy Breslin. #whilewewatch explores how social media and live-streaming fueled citizen journalism during the 59 day-long Wall Street occupation.

The film followed key events of Occupy Wall Street including the Brooklyn Bridge march on October 1st, “Pepper Spray Cop,” the Global Day of Action on October 15th and Occupy’s eviction on November 17th. Also captured were many forms of self-organizing mechanisms of the movement such as livestreamers, globalrevolution.tv media hq and wearethe99percent.tumblr.com. Finally, the film highlighted how the movement managed to stay instep with its overall message despite the diverse perspectives of its followers.

A lively panel discussion featuring some key media figures who covered Occupy followed the screening. These individuals ranged from professionals to laypeople and came from inside and outside the movement. Professionals included Quinn Norton of Wired, Jesse LaGreca of the OWS Media Team and Kevin Breslin. Live-streaming journalist Tim Pool of Timcast and Justin Webes, a hand raising spokesperson for OWS and education activist, comprised the non-professionals.

They discussed the complicated nature of the new media landscape. Justin Webes noted that video and micro-blogging have tactical implications for both movement organizers and the police. Quinn Norton reminded the audience that the media is often the first responder to events and “[stands] in the front lines between organizers and the police.”


The panel also discussed how Journalists hold a far greater responsibility then ever before. Tim Pool recounted an incident that occurred during the Unite Action (Oct 15) where a handful of OWS participants let the air out of police vehicle tires. As a result, some OWS participants question Pool’s loyalty to the movement and his motivations for filming. But despite the friction Pool continues to try to capture events faithfully. In the circumstance of witnessing misguided actions, Pool’s desire is to serve as a self regulating eye for the movement.

As the discussion drew to a close we asked the panel if there were any takeaways from witnessing and being participants of direct democracy. The panel seemed somewhat conflicted. At its best, Occupy is an example of the ability for individuals to self organize and improve society. However, as Quinn Norton argued, the movement was not diverse. She noted that “in its effort to create a space where everyone has a voice, what you get is the people who are used to having a voice get louder.” This might also be a problem within the social media environment, where it is all too easy for personal-branded shamans and soothsayers to get undeserved credibility. Webes ended by explaining how Occupy should learn from the civil rights movement, which effectively used a “quieter type of activism.”

Check out the trailer below and some photos from the event.

Images credits via Ruben Sun

Learn more about the film here.
The full livestream of the panel held by Animal NYC and captured by Tim Pool can be accessed here.

#whilewewatch

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