For most of this autumn he was a permanent fixture at Dewey Square, reporting, blogging, Tweeting, and knocking heads with quarrelous protesters. His diligence has made him one of the few reporters who, rather than idealize or scapegoat the Occupy movement, has seen for what it is—a disparate group of generally well-meaning individuals who are alternately and at once inspiring, obtuse, galvanic, and ridiculous.
“They’re a difficult group to write about,” says Faraone. “They’re so hypersensitive. They hate criticism. I learned early with them to make sure that everything I write is solid. Did I talk to ten people about this one sentence to make sure it’s right?” A tour of the now-cleared park reveals some of the oases that helped ease his long days—like Biddy Early’s, a nearby Irish bar which became a second home for many of the tent city stalwarts: “Reporters on one side, occupiers on the other, undercover cops in the middle.” The men’s room at South Station proved just as useful for surviving long reporting stints: “At hour fourteen or fifteen, there’s just a row of people at the sinks, splashing water on their faces. It really does help.”
In February, he will self-publish a book called 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, which will compile his months of reporting into a ground-level overview of the Occupy phenomenon, punctuated by stylized features, like a haiku timeline of the ninety-nine nights (“Zuccotti renamed / Now it’s called Liberty Square / Their park now bitches”). The book will draw on the sights he’s seen while traveling the country visiting various camps: a massive, tense march through Seattle, in weather that, he wrote, “couldn’t be more cliché if it was raining lattes”; a weekend at Occupy Oakland (“just one big angry peaceful mob”); an entire block of foreclosed houses in Chicago. “I went to Chicago because instead of guessing what Occupy Boston’s going to end up being like, there’s this movement in Chicago that’s been nomadic and struggling the whole time,” he says.
Now, of course, Dewey Square has cleared, Occupy Boston has dispersed, and the movement is revising its tactics. In a recent story, Faraone described how Occupy is transmuting into something less frenetic and, perhaps, more sustainable. That’s fine with him, as the last few months have taken their toll. “My life is so much anxiety,” he says. “I’ve lost a lot of weight. My pants are falling off.”
Still, he has no plans to abandon the story. “They’re harder to cover now, but I’m as tapped in as I can possibly be without being so deep that journalistic ethics become a problem,” he wrote in a recent e-mail. “I’ll be on the case all year.” It is as if, having grasped hold of the biggest story of his career, he is reluctant to relax his grip, lest it get away. “I have no idea where I’d be without this. I have no idea what I’d be writing,” he says. “Something like Occupy comes along, and it’s like everything comes together at the right time.”