In defense of puff


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When winter rolls in each year, there is always a list of things it brings with it. Car accidents, wet socks, frozen noses, hot chocolate, and the music of Bing Crosby all come to mind.

But there’s another thing that I find amusing every winter: the extensive media weather coverage that is just as fluffy as the snow blanketing Iowa City.

While people in the news industry usually look down upon these feel-good pieces with little depth, these stories seem to fit well into the papers and evening news broadcasts during the holiday season.

It’s the first snow of the year. It fills the city with a sense of glee. People start catching themselves humming tunes to Christmas carols — “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is usually my opening act. Memories of childhood laughter leap into everyone’s head. It sparks the joy of the holiday season.

That is precisely why these stories make the front page. Residents can relate. They want to hear more of these kinds of stories that will get them in the holiday mood. It’s a release from the sometimes-overwhelming front-page stories that you wish you hadn’t read.

Stories filled the pages of the Des Moines Register, the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, The Daily Iowan, and other papers. They detailed the day’s highlights, including weather warnings, snowball fights, less-than-artistic (and borderline obscene) snow constructions, and stories of how students spent their day without class.

The news stories are either soft and enjoyable like the freshly fallen powder or as punishing as the huge balls of ice buried beneath the white blanket.

It’s marvelous how quickly news organizations switch their focus from the dangers of a snowstorm to the youthful pleasure that fills the college-student community. What’s even more entertaining is the outpouring of comments and reactions from audiences who consume the stories. There is a clear divide between those who are filled with the holiday spirit and the Scrooges who seem to hold a grudge against the inevitable swirling snow each year.

Countless readers criticize media managers for publishing work that is supposedly not newsworthy.

Some may even say writing about the weather is the last resort — similar to the hopeless romantic trying to hold on to every last second of a conversation by bringing up the weather outside. Despite their criticisms, the stories always draw numerous readers and a barrage of comments.

But the massive bombardment of weather-related media isn’t great throughout the season — just as the joy of Christmas barely lasts through the beginning of the new year. After the first snow has stopped, the streets are plowed, and slush fills every crevice of the sidewalks. Fluffy snow stories grow irritating and pointless. Though I don’t know from personal experience, I imagine it is similar to parents’ feelings after the gratification of giving their children new toys turns to outright fury when the things never shut up.

So, as winter rolls on, let’s all hope the focus of the news returns to normal. Let today be the last day for the guilty pleasure of placing a snowball fight on a newspaper’s front page. Forget the story about strands of peoples’ hair freezing as they walk outside.

Let’s find a story that’s right in between, such as the snowballs you could make Tuesday afternoon — the ones that won’t burst on contact or the ice that leaves you limping all the way home. A story that will wake you up when you get hit, leaving you wanting to do something about it.

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