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No, I’m not about to fill an entire page with sticky, gooey, far-too-sweet, lighter than air nothingness. Or am I? Not entirely unlike the marshmallow crème, a “fluff piece” is a form of journalism, even though there are folks who would argue the point. And in fact, it’s what I do. After seeing it defined by an online slang dictionary as “an unimportant piece of writing,” and by Google as “full of unnecessary words,” I turned to the opinion of a “real” journalist: CNN’s Jeanne Moos, who started out in the business reporting on tough issues, but these days covers fluff, also known as “soft news.”
“Hard news was a waste for me,” Moos says. (www.thekjrkingsjournal ism.com.) “You can’t really let yourself go and write creatively, which is what I do best.” Back in the day, I was assigned all sorts of stories, including those with a political slant, and while I managed to plug along, I wasn’t very good at just plain “who, what, when, where and why.” I derived zero satisfaction from the work, just like Jeanne.
Several years ago, one of the editors at The River Reporter was overheard speaking with another (I was not present) and grousing about the fact that I had been turning in “nothing but fluff lately.” When it got back to me, I momentarily took umbrage (look it up!). I won’t name names, but it rhymes with Jane Bollinger. I considered calling her on it, but after searching the journalistic definition, I had no choice but to agree. Reading online at www.italki.com that “a fluff piece is a story that is unimportant and meant to be cute or funny,” I nodded in agreement. Fluff has a long history in journalism, and while it may not be the most respected form of reporting, it does (IMHO) have its place. “Often the newspaper that chooses to run these stories,” my research revealed, “does so not because it’s important, but because it’s cute and might help increase readership.” I’m not sure about um, “Jane,” but I can live with that.
So… I’ve spent the last week sick in bed with the flu and ruminating about the possibility that I suffer from a case of “arrested development,” which is defined by the medical community as an “infantile fixation or regression in which normal development has stopped prematurely.” The reason for my latest neurotic obsession is just as easy to define. Having once mentioned to a friend that I lamented the childhood loss of my precious Raggedy Andy doll, she found one in her shop (www.gayles vintagegoodes.net) and presented him to me last week for Hanukkah. Squealing with childish glee, I hugged the rag doll to my chest and gave him the once-over. Still in his original box from the 1960s and never used, Andy was almost as old as me and (unlike me) still in pristine condition. “Maybe just a schpritz of Febreze,” I thought after getting a whiff of the ‘60s, “but otherwise, he is good to go!” Making sure that the dog understood that he was not for shredding, I placed him on the bed (don’t judge!) next to my equally old stuffed mouse from the Magic Kingdom, who has somehow managed to survive Dharma’s predecessors over the decades, although (with a missing nose and blind in one eye) he’s looking a little worn.
Maybe it’s the era in which I grew up. Perhaps it’s a longing for simpler times. Could be that I just like to play with toys? As a kid, my father forbade me to play with dolls, including G.I. Joe. “He’s not a doll,” I insisted. “He’s an action figure!”I cried, but to no avail.
Yes, I’m all grown up now, but looking around the house, I can’t help but smile when I see my vintage Hillbilly Troll Doll alongside a photo of young Johnny, or one of several action figures climbing the trees in the backyard, where they do get played with while hanging out with equally immature pals by the fire. “Toy Story’s” Woody lives in the bath downstairs and of course, Raggedy Andy has taken up residence, but sleeps with one eye open, in case Dharma should think about tossing him about.
Arrested development? Maybe. Innocuous meanderings of a child-like mind? Possibly. Fluff? Undoubtedly, but I return to Jeanne Moos and her respected opinion. “I like to think of my [CNN] stories as dessert,” Moos said. “There’s all this horrible, terrible (sometimes) gory news for about 55 minutes and then there’s two minutes of something absurd or funny at the end.” I can live with that.