As with other attempts to broaden the movement, seasoned OWS activists view Occupy.com with a mixture of hope and skepticism. The site is not beholden to the General Assembly, the Occupy movement's fractious consensus-based decision-making body. Some team members will earn "living stipends," contributing to the perception that it is "professionalizing" the movement. And the ability to pick stories to feature gives the site's editors some degree of de facto power. One early collaborator, the filmmaker Katie Davison, told me she parted ways with Occupy.com in part due to concerns that it was "concentrating too much power in the hands of the curators." (She still counts herself as a supporter.) "Some are worried" that the site is too "top down," notes a veteran OWS organizer who asked not to be named, "but are willing to give it a chance."
Sauvage is keenly aware of the pushback and has worked for months to allay people's concerns. He points out that he has been deeply involved in OWS since last fall, when he made a fundraising video for the website of the New York City General Assembly. His social media experts, Justin Wedes and Kira Annika, are behind the two of the movement's most popular Twitter streams.
Michael Levitin, who is overseeing the site's text-based content, is one of the cofounders of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, which is embraced by the movement despite being controlled by a tight-knit group of editors working out of a private apartment. "Having a group that is small enough and efficient enough to get things done kind of required an isolation from the time-consuming, consensus-based process that the rest of the movement was working with," says Levitin, who has been a foreign correspondent for Newsweek and Forbes. "Obviously you put a thing like 'dot com' on something like 'Occupy' and it raises a lot of eyebrows," he adds. "It raised mine. But I just saw the opportunities that it implied."
"We want stories to reflect the particulars of a place while really coming across as universal to the issues that we are experiencing and sharing," Levitin says. "The message is that we are all in this together."
One of Occupy.com's debut stories, "Victory in Appalachia," tells of former workers from West Virginia's Century Aluminum Corporation who found themselves "an accidental part of the Occupy movement" when they set up an encampment to protest cuts in the company's retirement benefits. An organizer tells reporter Jake Olzen: "We felt we could make a statement about the whole 99 percent and how corporate America and greed overtook us and put us in poverty."
Though some of the writing and the layout is a bit rough around the edges, Sauvage wanted to launch the site in time for Occupy's spring offensive. Eventually, he hopes to dispense with the curated approach in favor of a Reddit-style system that lets users play a more active role in selecting and promoting content. And that won't be the only change. "The stuff that works," Sauvage explains, "is the stuff that you couldn't have predicted."
Correction: The original version of this article stated that Taubman was African-American. He is white. Mother Jones regrets the error.