The unexpected Halloween storms were the first but certainly won't be the last winter storms to create uncomfortable conditions for the #OWS protesters. Will the cold weather freeze out the movement? Mother Nature may be unpredictable but the movement is looking towards the long-term. On occupywallst.org the protestors are asking for winter donations, bundling up to survive future Nor’easters. To date, #OWS has collected almost half a million dollars in donations, allocating money carefully and democratically. Working groups approved by the #OWS general assembly are allowed to spend $100 a day for expenses such as materials to clean up Zuccotti Park, tents, and medical care. In the name of full transparency and disclosure, #OWS has posted their financial report, complete with the step-by-step process of allocating money, info on the #OWS bank account, and a balance sheet and income statement. The allocation process is monitored by the finance committee, made up of bookkeepers and entrepreneurs, and advised by CPAs. Within a matter of weeks, Zuccotti Park has turned into a democratic micro-economy.
While the movement is preparing to survive the winter season, the mainstream media has lost some interest. As seen in the graph below from a recent PEJ news coverage index report, last week’s coverage of #OWS is about half what it was back in mid-October (down to about 5% of weekly “newshole” coverage, compared to 10% just a few weeks ago). This week’s coverage is up slightly from last week’s, due to the controversial eviction of Occupy Oakland, during which an Iraq war veteran was wounded.
In order stay in the top headlines, Justin Elliott suggests #OWS needs new tactics to recapture media attention. Not to say that the mainstream media is providing great coverage of the #OWS movement. Felix Salmon notes that since #OWS has no spokesperson or clear agenda, the media enjoys making up their own story. For example, a reporter from Yahoo! News recently wrote that the money allocation process by the #OWS finance committee is full of bureaucratic red tape, and that the “modern day hippies” are not buying winter necessities but rather spending money on big screen TVs. I am not sure how it’s possible to hoard and waste money at the same time, but $10,000 spent on clothing, blankets, tarps and generators does not seem like stinginess or extravagance to me. It will be interesting to monitor the media’s coverage of the movement especially given recent eviction notices, police raids, and arrests in many US occupy camps. However, despite the decline in mainstream media coverage, public support of and interest in #OWS remains strong - in a recent CBS/NYT poll 70% of respondents had heard of or read about the protests and 43% of respondents agreed with the views of the movement. East coast winters are hard to survive even indoors – however, with wide public support and over $450,000 in public donations, it looks like #OWS has a fighting chance to brave winter weather, with Mother Nature hopefully cooperating.