by Steed Dropout
Oct. 9, 2013
ALAS, WE KNEW THE JACKASS
Like a lot of us, Ted Friedman, 74, didn’t see it coming — just all the time.
He was obsessed with his own death. Like John Lennon, who regularly visited emergency rooms to meet people who survived being shot in the head. He, reportedly, had a friend who believes she will be crushed to an ink-blot by a falling tree.
He, reportedly, always thought, like Lennon, that he would be murdered, although by a shot to the groin, inducing a slow filmic death of treacly molasses.
The beginning of the end for Friedman started with a staff picnic at his publisher’s, during which broad hints of their semi-retirement were served with salted peanuts from Berkeley Bowl.
Friedman commented that it was “ironic” the nuts were served because the publishers had told him he couldn’t use berkeleydailyplanetreporter.com for his blog. “We haven’t spent fifteen years building our brand to give it away like salted peanuts,” the publisher said.
“Were’d you get salted peanuts?” Friedman asked. He had already made the historic discovery that Mr. Peanut had gone saltless. He was proud of his exclusive on this, even though the usual critics replied, “we always knew you were nuts; now we can prove it.”
Friedman, known as a self-promoting opportunist, masquerading as a marketer, wasted no time moving on. “Nuts,” he muttered repeatedly.
What he didn’t fully grasp, until it was too late, was that the loss of his short-lived career as a reporter at the Berkeley Daily Planet would kill off his identity as a reporter — even if he used “reporting” as cover for what he called, boastfully, “creative journalism.”
Friedman had a bachelor’s in journalism and a masters in creative writing. This was to serve him well in his attempts to disguise his mis-reporting. “Thank God we don’t have a corrections section,” he told anyone he could button-hole.
An online critic called him the “world’s worst reporter,” a term he warmly embraced, squeezing it for each last drop of publicity.
MARKETING HIMSELF TO EXTINCTION
He sat by helplessly as his publisher first abandoned deadlines and then announced she was no longer a newspaper; he spectated at his own death as a reporter.
Don’t worry, said his editor, “we’ll still run your stuff. You’re a good writer.” This was followed by a string of copy rejections. “If I’m so good, why can’t I make it” in the paper which had run hundreds of his crazed dispatches, he bemoaned.
If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. His Planet editor doesn’t waste time with rejection slips. Either you run or you’re done. And Friedman was done.
He compensated with his blog, Berkeley Reporter, a lively Facebook, and an on-going feature called South Side Tales in a print only (of all things) publication, Berkeley Times. He had several of his tales in the can, when his reporting career died. Out of respect for his terminated reporting career, the Times (of Berkeley) promises to run what he left over for them.
A spokesperson for the Times said that Friedman worked well there because the paper despises so-called journalists.
He was reduced, at the end, to writing community “Speak Out” bulletin board squibs for Berkeley, California Patch disguised, pathetically, as reporting. He called these Embedded South Side.
He had no idea he would wind up permanently bedded.
He hoped his career as a contributing photographer at another Berkeley publication, which had baldly stated they’d rather not be associated with his reporting, would save him. But he had to face the fact that a picture was not worth six-hundred words.
He is survived by those who wish to be anonymous and refuse to be named or identified. “He saw himself as a hot-shot reporter,” a distant relative, said — off the record.
According to Friedman’s published pieces, he worked for his hometown newspaper during his summers away from college. He may have been a press agent for a summer theater one summer. He liked to say the producer there had thrown her panties in his face, but this cannot be confirmed.
It is customary to speak of the dead being missed and grieved over. In some twisted way, we honor him with “good riddance.”
At a public renunciation in People’s Park, which he said was his beat (a delusion), his oeuvre, a word, he despised, is to be printed out and burned.
Had he survived to cover the event, he might have written: “A tattered trio of Telegraph types gathered, angrily with knives and chains, to trash the tintypes and trifles of a Berkeley Daily Planet Reporter.”
It is often said, “we hardly knew ye,” but in Friedman’s case, we knew him all to well.
Berkeley Reporter has not the celestial skills to verify this weird-ass obit. The Berkeley Daily Planet had “no comment,” but his goofy copy survives in the Planet’s archive. “If we knew we’d be archiving this clown, we’d kill off the archive but it’s bigger than us and beyond our reach,” said an anonymous Planet employee, “the archive owns us, rather than the other way around.”