The Other 99, A News Outlet for #OccupyWallStreet

By Jackie Snow
Originally published October 24, 2011 by NY Convergence

Henry James Ferry, who has come to Occupy Wall Street nearly every day since the protest began on Sept. 17, realized the anti-capitalism gathering needed something.
It needed a business.

Specifically, he thought Zuccotti Park needed a full-time media outlet. So he launched The Other 99, which provides on-the-ground reporting news from Occupy Wall Street to mainstream media companies that have had difficulty keeping up with the coverage. Eventually he wants The Other 99 to include updates from protests all over the country.

Ferry, 31, lost his six-figure job in publishing earlier this year. That expense account-equipped position had him traveling monthly to universities, demoing software to librarians, but since then, his unemployment gave him the time to come to Occupy Wall Street as a supporter. But he wanted to know what was going on, and ended up yelling at protesters because nobody seemed to be in charge or know what was happening. Nobody seemed interested in listing demands.

“People like me,” Ferry said, yanking his tie up, making it into a noose for the benefit of the gathered crowd, “don’t understand why you are here.”

A little older than most of the protestors and usually dressed in slacks and a tie, Ferry could be mistaken for an office worker coming to gawk at the protest on his lunch break. In the early days of the protest, Ferry would find a spot to sit at the park and put up a sign that said “A Conversation with the Top 1%” next to another protestor with “A Conversation with the 99%” sign. He calls this setup a little street theater to start a dialogue with onlookers.

Ferry’s new company aims to extend the dialogue via the media by sending out information about speeches and marches and arrests. But he still wishes he could quote a spokesman and a list of demands.

The Other 99 currently exists as a loosely connected Facebook page, Twitter account and blog. There are updates, live feeds, eyewitness reports on arrests, photos and videos all taken by Ferry or one of the four freelancer brought onboard. Ferry has reached out to organizations like the BBC that might want to use his reporting when they miss something newsworthy, but right now his priorities are on his own followers. Now he hopes his new company will take the conversation global – and pay his rent.

“There are so many people following us that want to know what they can do,” Ferry said, referring to the more than 10,000 people that follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

One of the things he suggests they can do is donate. The Other 99 has raised over $25,000 almost completely by small contributions—the default amount he suggests is $9.17, a nod to the start date of the protests—from online donors. After the fundraising launch on Sept. 23, Ferry saw a surge of thousands of donations that have since leveled out at three to four donations a day. He spent over $8,000 on the protestors when they were missing basics like socks and umbrellas. Now he’s focused on paying The Other 99 site’s developers and handing out travel and food stipends to his freelancers.

Ferry sees no irony in having a startup conceived at Occupy Wall Street.

“It’s a curiosity,” Ferry admitted, adding that he plans to make the endeavor into a non-profit. “But I’m not trying to end capitalism.”

Ultimately he wants his own reporting teams, with a team covering one of the other protests that have sprung up and another team always on the ground at Occupy Wall Street.

A month into the occupation, Ferry can’t sit behind his sign as often since he’s busy moving into an office space in SoHo and organizing the launch–with a requisite launch party he plans on having near the park—for The Other 99’s official site. Ferry said he hasn’t taken a day off since the start of the movement, there’s just too much work to be done.

“I’m exhausted,” Ferry said. “My old job was so much easier than this job.”