The Lonely Life of a Reporter

by Steed Dropout
January 19, 2013

The Lonely Life of a Reporter. It’s right up there with bus-driver. A bus full of strangers he dare not talk to except to take their fare and answer a professional question or two.

Reporters in film are seen in jovial “city rooms,” surrounded by Mary Tyler Moore characters. But that is very little of most reporter’s working day.

I’ve felt lonely on many stories, even ones with large casts. I envy the majors, who report in teams. At the very least they have their videographers at their sides. If nothing else — in a squabble — you would have a little backup, before you both go down.

I work alone. I’m rarely alone on a story, but I’m invariably the only reporter. Most reporters wouldn’t follow my interests anyway. When other reporters show up, I want to hang with them, but have to tear myself away to do my own work.

The lonely life of Steed Dropout. Photo by Ted Friedman.

What I need is an associate. I noticed this during the Sequoia fire story when I asked a guy I was talking to whether he wanted to go on a story with me. That’s how lonely I was.

That turned out to be an important turning point, because I poured out my formerly-homeless-35 year drop out — story to him. I had never told this story. Telling that story freed me to write it here.

During a three month period covering Occupy Berkeley last year, I spent much of my reporting time with new friends I made and getting various types of tips from them. One of those friends is my associate here at Berkeley Reporter.

Alone at Occupy. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I’ve tried persistently for more than a year to get people to work with me and have always failed. I’ve just accepted that I’ll work alone.

What would it be like to have an associate — Woodward and Bernstein? — that would be ideal. Two reporters working the same story.

Then I remembered that my editor at Berkeleyside is an excellent crime reporter and that I have a crime yarn way over my head. My last piece here is the basis of my next project.

All I’ve got is an idea: crime wave in Oakland’s impact on Berkeley. The headline answers itself, concluding that there is an impact in Berkeley from Oakland’s crime-wave.

I could go over arrest data showing a predominance of Oaklander arrests. I could get input from cops on the beat and — the craziest of all — I could promote a public forum to kick the idea around. I like crazy. Crazy has brought me to the moment.

I’m going with crazy. I’ve already pitched the forum idea to City of Berkeley Police Chief
Michael Meehan. I next need to pitch it to the University Police Chief. Then pitch it to Berkeleyside. If BS doesn’t do it, and they probably won’t, Paul Blake, at East-Bay Media center has signed on.

Where does that leave us? With a strange sub-genre of journalism — audience-generated journalism at best and socially-constructed journalism at worst. I translate here: bull-shit, and warmed over bull-shit.

Lonely as a lone tree sitter up a Spruce in People's Park. Photo by Ted Friedman.

We should have known that the bull-shit label would stalk us.

Fortunately, we have been trained in coffee house debate. Experience has taught us that the best defense here is to plead guilty, but to point out that bull-shit rules. We offer first-rate bull-shit.

As lonely as a sign painter. Photo by Ted Friedman.

What more could any one offer in an age of bull-shit, so to say.

After you’ve copped to bull-shitting what’s left?

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