Obit Writers Remembered

Alright, let's see if Blogger is back up and running. This time, though, I'm saving whatever I write somehow before I push publish.

So, it's really been a big news week. And a big week for obituary writers: Terri Schiavo, Johnny Cochran, The Pope... On Thursday, when Schiavo died, my mother asked, "What are they going to talk about on the news now?" I guess that question has been answered.

Sometimes I joke that, "I'll always have a job because there will always be crime." You could say that's pessimistic, and someday hopefully there won't be as much crime so we won't need as many criminal defense lawyers, but even if you take that approach, that's a few years down the road, and by then I'll have quite a bit of experience and I still won't be out of a job.

Anyway, this week I started to wonder whether obit writers will always have a job. I read an article in Smithsonian Magazine a while back about obit writers. It explained how obits have changed over the years. In the past, obits were strictly factual accounts of dates, information about the funeral, family members, and major accomplishment. Now, obits are more likely to have colorful accounts of the deceased's life. And I saw this a lot with the memorials of 9/11 victims that ran in the NY Times. Many contained observations like "He loved a good practical joke," or "He was always on the hunt for the perfect slice of pizza." I liked this, I felt like it really humanized the subjects.

I guess the question of whether obit writers will always have a job, really hinges on whether there will always be actual hard copy newspapers. Some people have said for years that there will come a time when everyone reads their news online, or downloads it to their palm to read on the train, or listens to a podcast. And that's definitely happening, but I wonder to what extent it's effected the publication of paper newspapers.

Because I've had this thought, that when or if we come to a time when all news is in an online format, that obits will become more blog-like. When a friend or loved one dies, they will make a website. A friend or loved one will post their name, the perfunctory facts, and a photo. Then, anyone else can visit and leave comments - the colorful stuff that they remember, or even photos that they have.

I think that people are finding more modern ways to grieve. We see this with the t-shirts some people make to memorialize a friend - they usually feature a photo, their birth and death dates, and somtimes a quote by the deceased or friends' quotes about the deceased. This is a new type of obituary.

A few funerals that I've been to have even had a photo collage of the deceased. In the past, a funeral home might display one or two framed photos, but now people are putting up an easel with a photo collage. I think this is nice, especially if the deceased was elderly or ill, because it helps everyone to remember them at a happier time, and remember them as an active person. It's also probably theraputic for the family or friends who sift through their photo albums (and memories) to choose their favorites photos for the collage.

It would be nice if someday it came to this, not that I want to see obit writers out of a job, but it would be more appropriate if memorials were assembled by those who actual remember the deceased.


  1. As far as saving your entries somehow before you post, if I'm working with Blogger or something similarly squirrelly, I will write my entry then select it and copy it before I click the Post button. It's quick and easy, doesn't involve any extra programs, and if for some reason Blogger ruins everything, you can open Word or another text editor, past your entry, then save it to post later when Blogger feels better.


  2. That's what I did this time. It's an easy way to keep your entries, if you can remember to do it. But especially when it seems like Blogger isn't running right (like the past few days), it's a good thing to do.