Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's A What Kind of Story?

OK, folks, I need your help on this one.

There needs to be a name for the kind of story which has no substantive importance at all, but nevertheless one hopes is covered by the press because it's fascinating, or fun, or just hilarious. Just as, for example, the re-election campaign of Michael Steele for RNC Chair. I'll be reading every nutty thing that Steele says, and hope for equally goofy quotes from the other candidates -- but anyone who looks at it and tries to tell us it means something about the state of the current Republican party, or even worse that the outcome will have any consequences for the outcome of the 2012 elections, well, that's just foolish.

Anyway, these sorts of stories come up all the time -- just last Friday, we had the great Bernie Sanders non-filibuster filibuster and the Bill Clinton presidential podium press conference.  Neither mattered in the sense of changing the outcome of, well, anything, but both were highly interesting, and I'm glad I watched them both.  We need an easy way to signal that, so that on the one hand no one has to puff them up to justify writing about them, and on the other the gotcha squad can be discouraged from tweeting (yes, I'm looking at you, @daveweigel) complaints about all the attention to focused on hopeless candidates at the expense of people who will soon be winning but anonymous Senators. 

So: my first suggestion for a name is a "Stan Jones story," in honor of the perennial Montana libertarian candidate who turned blue after drinking a silver solution.  What do you think?  "In a rare collision of two Stan Jones stories, Barack Obama turned the White House over to Bill Clinton just as Bernie Sanders entered his fifth hour of holding C-SPAN2 hostage." 

Does that work?  If not, I'm taking suggestions.  Doesn't have to be named after an example of these stories; if you can think of a wording that works better, I'm all for it.  I'm afraid I don't have shirts for the winner, but I can offer a free link to Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary.  Maybe someday your phrase will be immortalized there!


  1. I don't know, aren't those stories already known as "fluff?" Sure, they're about the ostensibly serious subject of politics, but reading an article about Stan Jones is, after all, not much more uplifting than reading an article about Paris Hilton.

    It's only because we happen to be fascinated by politics that we don't realize that we approach a story about Michael Steele the way other people approach a story about Charlie Sheen.

  2. How about a "Politico" kind of story?

  3. Maybe "Mary Poppins" stories, as in "a spoonful of fluff makes the wonkery go down..."

  4. In the spirit of Isaac Asimov, you want a political variant of the 'shaggy dog story'.

    How about "Shaaa...egawd!"

    Unlike Asimov, the last part is backward. ('God(gawd)', instead of 'dog'). But that's okay, since many folks believe politicians, like dyslexics, wake up in the morning and pray to dog, though unlike the dyslexic's issues with letter order, the politician may be perceived to be godless.

    The 'egawd!' is also supposed to capture the surprise of the media outlet in discovering that things that don't matter, actually, don't matter. I know, this isn't very good. Had fun trying though.

  5. How about calling it a "Palin" in honor of all the wasted space and airtime given anything tweeted or said by the 1/2 term former governor of Alaska, partisan media celebrity, and (currently) non-candidate for any political office?

  6. An "on-deck" story? It's purpose is to keep the writer warmed up and doing something vaguely related to the real thing.


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