Berkeley Daily Planet New Content

by Steed Dropout
March 27, 2013
Berkeley, Ca

[Editor’s Note: the Berkeley Daily Planet was an award-winning print publication — now online — founded to fill the gap when the Berkeley Gazette (1894) quit thirty years ago, leaving Berkeley with only the student’s Daily Californian.

Enter the on-line Planet (1999), which has changed owners twice and is presently owned by award-winning Editor-in-Chief Becky O’Malley, a fiery and controversial muckraker.]


I first intuited that I was through at the Berkeley Daily Planet in a Berkeley Reporter piece. That piece, about branding myself into digital extinction was the beginning of the end and I knew it months before the actual end.

I foresaw my demise at the on-line rag that has been my home for more than two years, more if you include my commentaries. Not long, but long enough to build Google creds.

Larry Blake's closes after sixty years on Teley. Photo by Ted Friedman.

In an age where reporters are being fired left and right as papers downsize, how could I walk away from a job?

Thanks for asking.

I had just come off a period of high praise from my editor for perhaps my most daring piece.

“This is your best ever,” said the editor; “you’re a good writer.”

Unfortunately, I viewed subsequent pieces as needing to meet the new standard. I followed the thanksgiving piece with an X-Mass piece spent with a group of homeless kids outside the Cafe Med.

Street Kids. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I’m at work now on a participatory piece on garbage-can-diving.

At the end, I was fighting for each piece I wrote. A piece that has drawn praise at Berkeley Reporter was rejected by O’Malley because it named some brilliant Oakland journalists, “I don’t want in my paper.” She had apparently overlooked an earlier draft which left out the names.

Occupy Cal. Photo by Ted Friedman.

She became abusive when I wrote that a mayoral candidate had been arrested. “Did you even interview him?” she screeched. She challenged the validity of his arrest citation.

When the smoke died down, she said, “it was a pretty good piece.”

Mustang flips out on Channing Way. Photo by Ted Friedman.

After a two week hiatus, O’Malley opined in her column that she had no idea what would become of the paper and hauled out the more-time-with-family gambit, the refuse of burn-outs and crooks.

Pitching her in advance to get direction met with, “just send it in; we’ll see.”

I had been spoiled by years of simply covering my beat and seeing my story post within a few days.

Sequoia fire last year. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I invented my beat, Berkeley’s lively South side, for which it has always been known, because I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a beat (ie. like city hall, or the police).

Before I drifted away, O’Malley hissed that no one cared about the south side. She was open to more off-the-beat stories, but I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to see the possibilities.

I might have written about a recent excursion to Jack London square, for instance. I got great photos.

Within days the South side made the S.F. Chronicle and other majors, but the Planet was no longer listening, except to heap its usual scorn on the majors. I’ve heaped, too.

Door to Caffe Mediterraneum. Photo by Ted Friedman.

I had to lobby to have my last South side Planet piece published. O’Malley said her editorial had covered the story (hardly!).


“Sob sister.” That’s what O’Malley, a body-armored old-fashioned reporter calls sentiment.

My sentiments are killing me. I’ve lost my journalistic pal, Becky and her paper. She doesn’t respond to my requests for a continued relationship — I think, because she didn’t hire me and she can’t fire me. I just happened.

Occupy Oakland. Photo by Ted Friedman.

By now she knows that I am exceedingly insecure, too insecure for this line of work. Perhaps she hopes I will find myself.

In the meantime, two of our local publications are interested in my South Side Tales, and thanks to Michael O’Malley, the Planet’s publisher and photo-editor, I’m a contributing photographer, a staff position at Berkeleyside.

Lost child with mother, Orinda, 4th of July. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Don’t cry for (or with me) dear Planet readers. I’ll be back one of these days. Read my South Side Tales at Berkeley’s — in print — Berkeley Times,,,, and in pictures and contributing reporting at Berkeleyside.

Berkeley Marina, 4th of July. Photo by Ted Friedman.

If you got through this self-indulgence — huzzah!

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