Anchor Man is one of my favourite films of all time. The best bit about the news items actually covered in the film is the end story, the final bit of trivia that bookends the tragedies we never get to see. There’s the cat fashion show for instance – budding anchor woman Veronica Corningstone has high ambitions to be a serious journalist but is sent to cover trivia time after time. Her proficiency with fluff does eventually lead to a career break when Ron Burgundy, following a bizarre sequence of events, is late for work . The moral of the story is: ‘If you are patient, Fluff pays.’
Trevor Macdonald is the consummate professional when a heart rending story about a missing donkey or water skiing squirrel, or some such, warms the cockles of his heart. Often he would end his ITV news bulletin with a wry smile before shuffling his pile of paper, bidding us goodnight and heading home to a nice glass of a whole other kind of Burgundy. Indeed so good was he at delivering the fluff piece that when he left news at 10, they made one about him.
We can’t mention Trevor Macdonald without also having a look at Lenny Henry’s homage to his superlative news reading abilities: it’s Tiswas favourite - Trevor McDoughnut telling The News in the style nof the blues - TV Gold.
When the news is bad, it may seem in poor taste to sign off with a fluff piece, even if it is true and even vaguely newsworthy, but it is entertaining to see how the presenters cope, to anticipate the inevitable pun (who writes these? What a great job!) and to witness what will end up on the TV blooper top ten first hand.
However, snuck into the news on BBC Radio 4 on Friday was a seeming fluff piece that had a profound, immediate and unusually lasting impact on this particular listener.
We were told how a couple - I wish I could remember where they were from and what their names were as these are essential details to the justification of all fluff pieces – let’s call them George and Mildred from Milton Keynes - found a plastic bag of money (£21K) on their doorstep, how they handed it in to the police, how the police couldn’t trace it, how (even more unbelievably) the police told the couple that they could KEEP the money, and how, in a majestic super-fluff closing passage that put the aforementioned profound twist on the tale , THE COUPLE DONATED IT TO A LOCAL NATURE PARK DEVELOPMENT PROJECT.
What? They did what? Who are these people? Tell me more about them, why hasn’t an hour-long news feature been dedicated to them and their honourable act?
Because this story took the fluff slot I was left with the task of contriving the meat around the bare bones of the story. Are they rich? Are they mad? Are they catholic?
Because this was a smile-raiser, a ‘let’s end on a positive note’ sign off, we would not be told. For no other reason than one of gratitude for the realisation that there are some nice people in the nasty old world, people who sit comfortably alongside those talented animals and record breakers, those basket cases and funnies, I say ‘All hail the fluff piece and more power to it and its continuation in that last minute of what would otherwise be a full hour of doom and gloom.’
PS I did enjoy the transience of hearing the story and knowing only what I was told there and then, but obviously in this day and age, these stories can be played and replayed, so here’s the real thing, but only if you’re interested