Who believes print newspapers have a future? ‘The Occupy Wall Street Journal’ does

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Arun Gupta in the Financial District. (taijibasset via flickr.)
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Amid all the complaints that there's an Occupy Wall Street media blackout, some protest-sympathizers have taken matters into their own hands.

Tomorrow, the rolling protest in the Financial District will have the first edition of its own broadsheet newspaper (and it's not, as previously reported, made by media pranksters The Yes Men, who make headlines punking major news outlets like the BBC).

The debut issue of The Occupy Wall Street Journal will hit the streets of New York on Saturday afternoon, one of its editors, Arun Gupta, told Capital. The maiden edition will be a four-page, 17-by 22-inch broadsheet with a print run of 75,000; 10,000 copies will be passed out at a rally at Liberty Plaza Saturday afternoon, and the rest will be distributed by hand at transit hubs and other well-trafficked public places around the five boroughs.

"We want to get it out to everyone," said Gupta, who was running on two hours of sleep when Capital got him on the phone Friday morning. "But I have a good sense of how a lot of the print media operates in New York, and Manhattan is overdosed on free print media, whereas in the outerboroughs, they're starved.

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"Print media is still so important," he said. "Having that physical paper is much different than seeing something online. This is a real-world occupation, not a virtual one. You can't pass the Internet from one person to another, but you can pass a newspaper."

Gupta is founding editor and publisher of The Indypendent, a newspaper published out of New York 16 times a year and claiming a readership of 200,000, but which produces special editions for large-scale street demonstrations. So he's whipped up newspapers on the fly to cover protests as they're happening before. Of course, these newspapers are advocacy newspapers, arguably community newspapers; there's nothing mainstream about them. Don't expect skepticism or criticism of the style or speech of the protesters.

"I go down there everyday, and we just started talking about how we needed to do this," said Gupta. "We felt like it needed to be coming from the movement itself. The Indypendent has done some coverage, but we felt like we needed something that focused specifically on what's going on with the occupation, particularly because there's been a lot of criticism that there's no clear message or sound byte that we can fit into a five-second blurb. We felt there needed be to something explaining to the general public what is going on."

Gupta was most critical of an especially skeptical piece in last Sunday's New York Times, in which columist Ginia Bellafante wrote: "[The] cause ... was virtually impossible to decipher. The group was clamoring for nothing in particular to happen right away — not the implementation of the Buffett rule or the increased regulation of the financial industry. Some didn’t think government action was the answer because the rich, they believed, would just find new ways to subvert the system."

Gupta said, "I talked to another New York Times reporter who agreed that piece was terrible. This reporter actually said, 'That's the same crap they've been publishing for the last 40 years.' It was a hit piece."

Issue No. 1 of The Occupy Wall Street Journal was written and edited over the course of 12 hours. Gupta drew on his talent pool of Indypendent contributors and brought in two other editors, including a "really sharp former A.P. copy editor," to help shape and finesse the prose. They worked through the night Thursday into Friday and will reconvene this afternoon to wrap up the production work at The Indypendent's temporary workspace at The Brecht Forum, a Marxist culture center on the West Side Highway not far from the demonstration site.

The content includes pieces from Gupta, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, and Nathan Schneider of the website Waging Nonviolence, as well as a photoessay of protestors airing their messages on a whiteboard; a collection of tweets disseminated via the hash tag #iwilloccupy; and a cartoon rendered in the The Wall Street Journal's signature stipple style. Gupta hopes it will be out the door by early evening.

The Occupy Wall Street Journal was funded via the online startup incubator Kickstarter. The initial reports that it was a project of left-wing satirists The Yes Men were inaccurate, but The Yes Men did help facilitate the Kickstarter campaign, which has so far raised $17,500, said Gupta. Other notable supporters who helped spread the word include Michael Moore and Naomi Klein.

The plan, said Gupta, is to put out a new issue once or twice a week for as long as the protest persists.

"We'll keep it going for as long as we feel it's having an impact," he said.

The real Wall Street Journal declined to comment when we asked whether they believed the new newspaper was infringing on its mark.


This article has been updated to reflect the following correction:

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article identified Naomi Wolf, instead of Naomi Klein, as a supporter of the newspaper The Occupy Wall Street Journal.