Lifestyle Journalism — One of the Most Challenging Forms of Writing

Michele Koh Morollo
6 min readMar 22, 2019

How writing about “fluff” can help you develop essential, creative writing skills.

Photo by Britta Jackson from Pexels

I write about food, luxury houses and hotels, fashion, beauty products, shopping mall Christmas decor, and cushion covers made out of 100 percent eco-friendly linen. When I left my full-time job editing two magazines, the building blocks of my freelance career were 400-word articles about 17th century headboards, how to read biorhythms, or bass fishing in Minnesota that brought in as little as $15 a pop. Thankfully, I have since moved on to better paying gigs.

I am what the industry calls a “lifestyle journalist” — a term that applies to writers who produce “lighter” stories rather than “hard” or industry-specific news. News reporters, political columnists and finance and business journalists, and even fresh journo grads secretly scoff at the those of us who earn our keep producing lifestyle content. But I know something they don’t — writing about seemingly superficial things is one of the best ways to improve your skills as a writer.

A fellow freelance writer friend once said to me, “An editor asked me for a story about top ten beach bars in Asia. I do corporate and technical writing, not that fluffy stuff. Do you want the assignment?”

I had a chat with a young, aspiring journalist whose attitude echoed my friend’s. He hadn’t even begun to build his portfolio and had just started a job as a reporter for a small local newspaper cranking out stories about dessert cafes and pet stores in the neighbourhood. “You know, I’m not at all interested in writing about such things, but I have to start somewhere I guess,” he said, scrunching up his nose as if dessert cafes were places that sold poop. “I can’t wait for this to be over. What I really want to do is investigative journalism or human interest features, the serious stuff,” he told me.

Serious Versus “Fluff”

I graduated with an first class honors degree in journalism and have been writing professionally for more than twenty years. I’ve also written two books, and have had my short fiction published in a number of anthologies. Having worked on the “serious stories” — nuclear leaks, youth gangs, toxic food scares in China, big data, mutual…