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Former El Molino student helps edit Occupy Wall Street newspaper

Michael Levitin was on his way to Berlin via New York City late last month when something came up.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was in its early days, and Levitin, a journalist and activist who grew up in west Sonoma County, was drawn to Manhattan's financial district to see what the commotion was about.

Levitin already was booked on a flight the following day, but the intensity of those involved in the fledgling occupation immediately sucked him in. He stayed late that first night and would end up camping overnight in the days that followed.

"I just felt the power instantly, the power of these people," Levitin, 35, said during a cellphone interview this week.

He soon learned that demonstrators needed help editing a newspaper that was reporting the events unfolding in Lower Manhattan. The Columbia Journalism School grad who learned his early newsroom chops as editor-in-chief of the El Molino High School newspaper wanted not only to be part of history, but to document it as well.

"This is not a protest," he said as he walked toward Zuccotti Park, a half-acre public space sandwiched between ground zero and Wall Street's financial monoliths that is the nerve center of the effort. "This is the birth of the movement of our generation that's been a long time coming."

The driving theme, which has spread to more than 100 cities, is the belief that the economy and America's political system have come to serve the nation's wealthiest Americans. The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976, according to the New York Times.

On his first night as a volunteer in a tiny office in Greenwich Village, Levitin joined a half-dozen others who were wrapping up what was to be the first edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal, a four-page, full-color broadsheet newspaper supported by donations. Although it is not the movement's official publication, it quickly is becoming an important voice for its adherents.

"I got brought in the night of production (Thursday, Sept. 29)," said Levitin, who was handed a stack of "copy" and directed to begin editing. He worked until 6 a.m., slept for four hours and returned for eight more hours until the paper was finally sent to press.

The first edition had an initial run of 50,000 copies that went quickly and was followed by 20,000 more, Levitin said. A second edition started with 50,000 copies and an additional 50,000 will be distributed this weekend.


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