Just because it’s ‘fluff’ doesn’t mean it’s not important
I have been told affectionately by my co-workers that I’m the writer of the fluff.
My co-workers are often tasked with reporting crime, city board meetings, tax rate increases and other things that can be most unpleasant to write about, but are essential to the integrity our commitment to reporting the most up-to-date and correct news.
However, I’m OK with writing fluff. I get to report the good news.
According to my late grandmother, no one was ever reporting any good news, so I was always elated when I could hand over a feature piece I’d had written about someone doing good.
I’d always tell her that she couldn’t say she didn’t know anyone who isn’t reporting the good news, because I was.
To be honest, I never in a million years would have thought I would be charged with finding people, organizations or events to highlight good works in the community, but it has been a privilege of lifetime and something I enjoy waking up every day to do.
One person I try to model my approach to reporting the fluff around here after is CBS broadcast journalist Steve Hartman.
You probably know Hartman best for his weekly reporting on the CBS News series “On the Road.”
Each week Hartman brings “CBS Evening News” viewers unique stories from around the country in his weekly segment on Fridays.
The segment is modeled after the legendary series of the same name which was originally reported by one of America’s greatest TV storytellers, the late newsman Charles Kuralt.
Most of us, including myself, remember Kuralt hosting “CBS Sunday Morning.” I can remember getting ready for church many a Sunday with Kuralt’s voice in the background.
What I didn’t know is that Kuralt was responsible for creating the series that is now celebrating 50 years and set a precedent for us writers of fluff.
In a recent interview with CBS, Hartman said that Kuralt began the series because he, “felt like the news was too focused on the big cities and this was his way of going out and finding what he called regular people.”
Turned down on his first few tries, Kuralt finally made headway with the series with it appearing as a regular feature on “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” in 1967.
What he had planned on being a three-month project, turned into a series that ran from 1967-1980.
Hartman would be introduced to the world of “On the Road,” in 2011 after the network revived the series with Hartman providing the Friday evening end-pieces for the “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.”
Needless to say, CBS’s revival with Hartman’s personal touch was a success. The series won two 2013 Edward R. Murrow Awards for the
“CBS Evening News.” Three of Hartman’s stories won in the Best Writing category.
While in the beginning the whole purpose of the series was to find the odd stories of ordinary folks, Hartman said it has become “harder to find the real eccentrics.”
However, he said he has found that “there’s still a lot of people out there who are extraordinary in more ordinary ways.”
He has told stories about ordinary folks such as 46-year Chris Rosati, who recently lost his battle with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), but not without first embarking on journey of kindness that all started with a plan to hijack a Krispy Kreme doughnut truck.
He’s also told the heartwarming story of 82-year-old widower Dan Peterson and his unexpected and but powerful friendship with 4-year-old Norah Wood.
These are just two of the hundreds of heartwarming stories that Hartman has shared with his viewers over the years.
All of Hartman’s stories focus on the ordinary, but ultimately wind up uncovering something extraordinary, such as the power of kindness in a single act or how a most unusual friendship can mend a broken heart.
Also, it has to be said that most if, not all of his stories, will make you tear up, get chills or straight-up ugly cry. I dare you to try to watch and not feel anything.
I always say if I could be anyone when I grow up it would be the female version of Steve Hartman. I want to be able to tell a story that would make anyone and everyone feel all the feels.
A writer of fluff, the aim in reporting the good news is leaving folks with a life lesson that lasts longer than the time it took them to read the story.
So far, I’ve had the privilege to tell stories of ordinary folks doing extraordinary things and I hope to get the opportunity to keep on doing that.
While we live in a small town where there’s not always a ton of big things happening every day, there are many remarkable and unforgettable people going about their business making the ordinary, extraordinary and my job is to seek them out and then share their story. Not bad for a fluff writer.
For more on Hartman and “On the Road,” visit online at https://www.cbsnews.com/news or you can follow Hartman on Facebook at Steve Hartman.