Berkeley Daily Planet Reporter Survives 35-Year Rip Van Winkle Act — Awakens to Reborn Journalism Career With His Hometown Paper
by Steed Dropout
Dec. 5, 2011
I am 72 years old, formerly homeless, but now a reporter — since 2009 — with the Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley, California.
While covering a major fire, last week, at the century-old Sequoia Apartments on Berkeley’s world-renowned Telegraph Avenue, I met one of my readers. Whenever I meet my readers, I am always flattered.
To think, they’ve turned away from YouTube, and Facebook, and the the New York Times, to click on the Planet. More amazingly, they are able to navigate the Planet and find my articles.
When I delivered, and later reported for my hometown paper in 1958, my paper owned the afternoon paper, too, so our 65,000 readers had to read me, although, strangely, I never met anyone who said they’d read me.
If I meet, in Berkeley, a cop or city official who reads me, I almost soil myself. Recently our police chief, and a lieutenant said they read me. “You have some good ideas on crime,” said the chief, as I checked my pants.
I took my reader (from paragraph 2) along with me on a clandestine photo-shoot of the burned-out apartment building, and on the way back, I commented on a story I’d written in 1958. To this, he asked if I’d been a reporter all that time.
DROP-OUT IN SEVENTIES
“Hardly,” I replied. “In fact, I dropped out in 1975, and didn’t write so much as a grocery list until 2007, when I wrote an obituary about my cinema-owner friend, George Pauly.”
Read the article by Ted Friedman.
That obit, while almost killing me, took me back to my days as a cub reporter and jack-of-all jobs in the newsroom and beyond. (more on all this, later).
Try to keep in mind that I’m not just a geezer coming out of retirement, but a geezer who “retired” In 1975 and did not work a day since I took on more responsibilities at the Berkeley Daily Planet around 2009 (more to follow).
HOMELESS IN EIGHTIES
Here’s how I accounted to my reader for 30 dropout years: “I killed time in ‘speculative shopping’ — in which nothing is purchased — running in the hills, aimlessly browsing bookstores, in coffee houses, and art-house cinemas.”
It’s not that I dropped out of the human race, just the rat-race, which had me on a treadmill to oblivion. (There will be more to this story).
I was, somehow, so embarrassed to say this to a reader that I went on to confess that in my present “work” as a reporter I had to fight the drop-out urge constantly, and that I was haunted by my past. Ever noticed that after an initial embarrassment, you go on to further, even worse, embarrassments?
“When the going gets tough on a story, as recently, with a ten article series on Occupy Berkeley, I want to drop out, whereas a ‘real reporter,’ just digs in, robotically. Somedays, I have to struggle just to get through a story, as I struggle with my past. (Expect examples in future logs).
After all the disclosures to my shaken reader, I felt empty. The secret was out. Still, I think the confession was the right thing — because it led me to this log and to you, dear reader.
Google Ted Friedman, aka Steed Dropout Berkeley Daily Planet. Read him at the Berkeley Daily Planet to see which journalism rule he breaks next.