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Writing Obituaries

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Three types of obituary writing Standard form News story Obit feature Standard obituary form Contains the basic elements of any news lead. 5 W s and H. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Writing Obituaries


1
Writing Obituaries
  • A Timeless Art

2
Is the obituary page the best read page in the
newspaper?
3
What is the value ofa well-writtenobituary?
4
What is the main requirement of any obituary?
5
Three types of obituary writing
  • Standard form
  • News story
  • Obit feature

6
Standard obituary form
  • Contains the basic elements of any news lead.
  • 5 Ws and H.
  • Second-day lead

7
More basic elements
Time and date of services Time and place of burial Time and place of visitation
Date and place of birth ACCURACY Occupation
Memberships Achievements Survivors
8
More elements
Names of parents (optional) Preceded in death Date and place of marriage (optional)
Pallbearers Memorials
9
Information to check and double-check
  • Confirm spellings of names
  • Check addresses. Compare whats given to city
    directory or phonebook
  • Check birth date, age. Do the math.
  • Verify with funeral home director any obit faxed
    or called in to the newspaper.
  • Check newspaper library for stories.

10
Language choices
  • Avoid euphemisms, such as loved ones, passed away
    or dearly beloved.
  • Be careful when listing cause and circumstances
    of death
  • One dies unexpectedly, not suddenly.
  • One dies apparently of of a heart attack, not of
    an apparent heart attack
  • One dies following an operation, not as a result
    of an operation.
  • Injuries are suffered, not received.

11
More word choices
  • Learn the proper religious terms
  • Catholics celebrate Mass
  • Jews worship in synagogues or temples
  • Episcopal priests are known as rectors
  • Use your AP Stylebook
  • Know your newspapers policy and style.

12
Stylebook tips
  • Survived by wife, not widow
  • Stepson, half-brother

13
Newspaper Policy
  • Survivors who gets listed??
  • Pets
  • Fiances
  • Partners
  • Live-in companions
  • Grandchildren (by name)
  • Brothers, sisters (by name)

14
Newspaper Policy
  • In lieu of flowers
  • Who decides what goes in?
  • Reprints if mistakes?
  • Calling families if mistake is made
  • Charging
  • Divorced spouses
  • Addresses for security/safety
  • Suicide

15
Creating the obituary
  • Information comes from funeral home director on
    standard form.
  • Information typed in according to newspapers
    policies.
  • Product is dry biography.
  • Practice writing an obituary from a standard
    funeral home form.

16
Writing obituaries
  • When a death occurs in conjunction with a news
    event.

17
Gathering information
  • Funeral home form
  • Newspaper
  • Other sources
  • Newspaper library
  • Interviews with family, friends

18
From the funeral home
  • Get pictures
  • Resolve conflicting information
  • Ask questions when funeral director calls in or
    when you confirm that an obit has been received
    from the funeral home.

19
From the newspaper
  • Check funeral notices for names in the news or
    for interesting tidbits that might make that
    persons story interesting to the readers.

20
From the newspaper library
  • Check past clips that include the deceased.
  • Some clips may include information or activities
    not on the obit form.
  • Quotes might yield glimpse of persons
    personality.
  • Find names of friends or co-workers.

21
From family, friends
  • Dont be afraid to make the call. Many times
    family members welcome talking about a loved one.
  • Dont ask, How do you feel?
  • Even with someone you know, good reporting can
    make a story better.

22
Writing Obituaries
  • Another angle on a feature story

23
An obit feature
  • In small communities, an obit feature most likely
    will be written only about public figures.
  • Who are public figures?
  • Anyone is worth a well-reported, accurate obit
    feature.

24
Purpose
  • A profile
  • Capture the essence of the person how did
    he/she live his/her life?
  • Bringing the deceased to life one last time.

25
Techniques to use
  • Feature telling techniques
  • Details, senses
  • Anecdotes
  • Set scenes
  • Quotes that show a window into the personality.
  • Ask, How would he/she like to be remembered?

26
If public figure
  • Include the cause of death even if it could be
    considered controversial.
  • Decide the worth of embarrassing information. How
    long ago did it happen? What does it add to the
    story?
  • Be aware of newspaper policy.

27
If not, consider your options
  • Run obit that leaves out embarrassing information
    and cuase of death. If circumstances merit story,
    then run story separately from obit.
  • Include embarrassing details and cause in obit.
  • Include embarrassing details and cause only for a
    public figure.

28
Other options
  • Put a limit on how far back in a persons life to
    include derogatory information (convictions).
  • Print everything newsworthy about public figures.
  • Print everything newsworthy about anyone.

29
Trends
  • Online obituaries popular feature. Sometimes
    just print short record with names and service
    times.
  • Why?

30
Final check
  • Correct?
  • Complete?
  • Check sources?
  • Style?
  • Policy?
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