Writing For The Berkeley Reporter Audience

by Steed Dropout
Aug. 25, 2014

'I'm no dummy,' a reader writes. Photo by Ted Friedman.


My first audience is a Google robot. I don’t know the bot’s name but I’ve psychoanalyzed her personality–an algorithm.

The bot doesn’t know me from Hemingway. To the bot, Hemingway and I are just two equal writers. Rank is decided by search results, not by quality. Whew!

I write headlines for the bot and the bot has been good to me, bringing me as many as 1,500 “unique visitors,” daily. Our CEO, an SEO (search engine optimizer) is a magic carpet delivering our content to your screen.

My readers are both palpable and not. I’ve met my Berkeley readers at demos/events, and at my office, the Caffe Med, on Telegraph.

One day, while I was on a hot BBQ story, a woman overheard the name I wrote under at the Berkeley Daily Planet, where I was something of a cut-up.

She plopped herself at a table where I was gnawing on a rib. “So you’re Ted Friedman,” she repeated, after pauses. I had to re-assure her. That was all she said. “So you’re Ted Friedman.”

After that, I met more and more of my readers around town. They all liked what I was doing, whatever that was.

My impalpable audience is out there in a cloud. These could be people who are looking for a room at the Berkeley Hilton, find my page-leading story about Berkeley being a “Hilton to the homeless,” concluding, “hey, honey, let’s stay on the streets of Berkeley and save the cost of a room at the Hilton.”

You might search crack and get my latest cop crack-down story from People’s Park. If Mitt Romney again runs for president, you may see my critique of his name, along with a picture of a catcher’s mitt.

Berkeley Reporter apologizes for appearing on the same search result page with the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

This is some sort of travesty that only a robot could explain. I was kicked out of journ-school photo-journalism in 1959, (“turn in your Speed Graphex”) and skipped the reporting course I’m working without a license; I was a wretched journ-school student.

Berkeley Reporter has its critics, as does the New York Times and big government. At least one of the critics went to the trouble to post an article calling Berkeley Reporter the worst in the country. Covering Occupy Berkeley, a few years ago, I was cited by the co-founder of the Occupy movement for writing the worst stories about an Occupy anywhere in the world; world’s worst.

Here, at Berkeley Reporter, we love bad publicity. The bot gives us credit, the same way it would for good publicity, or a Pulitzer Prize.

These views do not represent those of publications in which my work appears.

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