Off the Record, and Other Games Sources Play

by Steed Dropout
Dec. 16, 2011

Wednesday I attended the meeting I expected to be kicked out of. Instead of being kicked out, I was allowed to attend, to contribute, but not to write a word about what I had seen or heard. A reporter’s nightmare, but you do fill out your stories with the forbidden fruit as background and depth.

Sometimes you just have to suck it up. I have several stories I am sworn not to tell. Why is that? It’s because the sources you gain outweigh the sources you would lose, and all just for for one story.

Now “off-the-record,” on the other hand, is just bullshit. I had one source, so jittery, he threw in “off-the-record” after every utterance. You can be sure he wants to get his point across in print.

Still I was frustrated, and I vowed to write about the meeting in this log. But what if someone, a wrong someone, actually reads my fucking blog. Can I say that on my fucking blog? So let’s just let the whole meeting cool off, until I feel it’s safe to write about it. Okay?


Meanwhile, I was scooped twice today, once by an Oakland Tribune reporter, and next by a press release from a Berkeley city councilman. In my embarrassment, I was compelled to write a mostly bull-shit piece to seem to rise above the reportorial fray.

The bullshit piece, hot off the press.

When, as a college student, I reported for the Champaign-Urbana Courier, which resembled and read like the New York Times, I was constantly scooped by a reporter at the News Gazette, Jerry Smeltzer, and finally was fired for falling asleep at a C. Northcote Parkinson (Parkinson’s Law) talk on campus, and pretty much fabricating the review, to which the great man scathingly replied to my editor.

Parkinson’s Law, if you really want to know: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This was considered highly comedic in 1950’s America.

Champaign-Urbana, where I was attending the University of Illinois was a three newspaper town, although it had a population of 70,000. The Daily Illini, where I did my first pieces, was the only morning paper, while the Courier and Gazette competed for afternoon readers.

I’ve been haunted and mortified for years by my failure to live up to the standards of the Courier, and this is why — to this day — I’m sensitive about being scooped.


I was told by a dentist today — it was implied — to eschew alcohol, which doesn’t help my dental problems. Moreover I was tamed by that dentist, who said, in exasperation, “these are my rules,” Mr. Friedman. She’s such a doll! It was like “the King’s Speech, my house, my game, my rules.” I replied, “I’m totally off your case; have your way with me.”

When I got home I wanted to get smashed, the perfect masochistic stroke. Instead I just got stoned and wrote the above response to being scooped piece — above.

Another day, another holler, dear reader.

Steed Dropout, aka Ted Friedman,.writes for the Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley Ca.

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