Adam Shapiro has been covering the Occupy Wall Street movement since the beginning, and working the front lines both in Zuccotti Park and, since the eviction, at the New York Stock Exchange.
What makes his job more difficult than most reporters is that Shapiro is the man on the ground for Fox Business Network.
While the protesters criticize the bankers and the financial industry as a whole, News Corp., and Fox News in particular, have been a special target of the occupiers' outrage.
TheWrap talked with Shapiro about the heckling he's gotten, why the Occupy Wall Streeters have more in common with the Tea Party than they'd like to think — and cutting his teeth at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
What has your involvement in the story been?
I was on it from the periphery at the beginning, and in the middle of it starting about a month ago, and then this week covering it intensely. I’ve been down there talking to protesters live round the clock this week.
So why has your coverage intensified this week?
The eviction at 1 a.m. on Tuesday … If you have a business right next to the park, this is a moment they had been pushing the city for for several weeks. For the protesters, they saw it as an infringement on their right to free speech. This is something that has gotten the attention of the United States and the world — well, I can’t speak for the world.
Obviously the movement has been critical of, and in some cases hostile, towards News Corp and Fox. How has that affected your ability to cover it?
What makes you say that? [Laughs] It affects my ability in being able to speak to protesters live. A lot of reporting that people do — at least that I do — is talking one-on-one with people without a camera. I’ll talk to people without a camera for half an hour. Then when you go live, it’s a whole different story.
There was an incident on Tuesday where they were all yelling at me as I tried to report. I turned to a protester I’d spoken to without a camera and asked what this meant for the movement moving forward. Another protester said, "Don’t talk to him, go along." I knew I wouldn’t get anything live.
Here's the video of that:
Have you had any memorable confrontations?
No. First of all, my job is not to confront. I was local reporter and local anchor most of my life. Years ago when I was working at WXIN in Indianapolis, there was a Ku Klux Klan rally. There were thousands of protestors – Klan and counter-demonstrators. The counter-protesters outnumbered the Klan, and there was a riot.
That experience really changed way I look at how I do my job. When I go into a crowd – I hate crowds, I have a healthy fear of them – my policy is to do no harm. If people want to act foolish, yell at me, walk in front of my camera, I have discussion with my crew: "Don’t stop them."
If it gets to point where it's really interrupting what we're there to do, I calmly put my microphone down and walk way. The problem is when you try to stop people from walking into a shot or yelling at you, it incites them.
What do you make of those who criticize Fox for not covering the Occupy Wall Street story enough?
Fox Business has been covering this since day one. There is a perception that we, the media in general, has not been covering this story. Someone yesterday said the message is ‘the country doesn’t know what we’re doing because media is not covering it. You’ve had two months and trust me, the media has been covering it.
What do you think the implications of the eviction will be?
I don’t think it has suppressed the movement. There are people who are motivated and truly passionate, people who are legitimately protesting. There are people in there who have different agendas, that’s obviously clear. My crew goes out of its way to interview the legitimate protesters. We try to use best judgment we can.
What stands out to me is that a portion of what OWS is angry about is the exact same as what people on right are angry about – the bank bailouts. They are angry about it for different reasons. The left sees it as rewarding the rich, giving benefits to bankers who, in their opinion, brought about the financial collapse. The right sees it as betrayal of free market principles. If you make bad decisions, bad investments, and they fail, you suffer consequences.
If you really wanted to make a statement, because at end of the day Americas are about compromise, imagine what would happen if those two sides could come together.
There’s still an awful lot they don’t agree on, though.
Earlier you sort of alluded to another question I’ve been asked: How do I restrain myself from yelling at people? There 310 million of us. I disagree as people disagree with them on all kinds of issues. There has to be a mutual respect for people. This morning, a woman was angry and yelling at me. I kept looking at her saying this in my head: “We're in this together” She disagrees with me, doesn’t even know me, but it’s OK. I’m one and the same. I’m Fox, but it’s the same thing. I don’t know how she’d feel about that.
You mentioned there being legitimate protesters, so that would suggest there are illegitimate ones as well. Who fits that description?
Someone who is stoned. I’m going to give less access to a live TV camera to someone who is stoned than I am to someone who is sober. That’s just common sense, don’t you think?
This woman I started to talk to the other night, she was clearly stoned. We stopped the interview. She won't speak appropriately about it, so we go to someone else.
Yes but surely you aren’t saying all those people who are illegitimate are stoned? What makes the rest of them illegitimate?
No not at all. It's easy to answer your question this way: Who are the people you see there on a regular basis who will talk to you. The people who are there on a regular basis, who want to have a conversation with you, who feel passionate about what they’re doing — they are the legitimate ones.
Would you say the movement has grown by attracting more of those people or more of the stragglers, stoners and fair-weather protesters?
The movement has attracted both. In the early days, there were a lot of people who were passionately darwn to this, then stragglers. There are clearly a few people who are somewhat mentally challenged compared to others. And Occupy Wall Street will tell you that. There is one guy in a coat with a scarf who protesters kept kicking out of the park.
What is the best way you and your colleagues can improve your coverage of it?
The best way to improve coverage — and this is very hard for those of us in TV, print, radio — our job is to listen. The best way if you ever want to improve anything is to listen. The 310 million of us in this together must answer that question: Can people on the far left and far right unite? If they were willing to listen to each other, maybe they could.