Monday, September 15, 2014

Quote of the day

"Cornelius stepped away from the window as a servant brought him the morning paper. He took his place in a comfortable recliner and opened first to the obituaries, as was his daily custom, to see if anyone he disliked had died, but sadly the announcements held no joy." --Larry Correia, "Hard Magic"

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Making a List….

I'm compiling a list of the 50 best books for obituary writers. These are the memoirs, anthologies, novels and reference guides that every journalist assigned to the death beat should read.

Here are the eight we already feature on our website:

"The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries" by Marilyn Johnson

"Life After Death" by Nigel Starck

"Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers" by Alana Baranick, Stephen Miller and Jim Sheeler

"Deadlines: Obits of Memorable British Columbians" by Tom Hawthorn

"Obit: Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People Who Lived Extraordinary Lives" by Jim Sheeler

"If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name" by Heather Lende

"Final Salute" by Jim Sheeler

"Working the Dead Beat" by Sandra Martin

What other books should we include?

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Oh you want this shirt? Here you go

You know that old cliche about the deceased giving someone the shirt off his/her back? Well, it's always wise to verify such a story before adding it to an obituary.

For example, when Oprah Winfrey eventually dies, her obit writers will be able to use a version of the line with confidence. Earlier this year, the talk show legend gave away a designer dress simply because a stranger asked her for it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cleveland Press Club honors obit writer

Obituary writer and SPOW member Mark Zaborney recently took second place in the Cleveland Press Club’s annual journalism competition.

Zaborney was honored for his obituary about Seymour Rothman, a veteran Blade columnist who "thrived among celebrities and everyday citizens."

Click here to read the obit.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Another one didn't "die"

Here's another one who didn't die. According to his obit in The Atlanta Journal Constitution, "John Dominic Jaramillo danced into spirit on June 6, 2014. He was a performing artist, professional Flamenco dancer, arts in education teacher, Native American educator, lover of life and collector of stories."
So, now you can add "danced into spirit"  to your collection of euphemisms for "died/"
a performing artist, professional Flamenco dancer, arts in education teacher, Native American educator, lover of life and collector of stories. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/atlanta/obituary.aspx?pid=171305172#sthash.27D5GrCX.dpuf
a performing artist, professional Flamenco dancer, arts in education teacher, Native American educator, lover of life and collector of stories. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/atlanta/obituary.aspx?pid=171305172#sthash.27D5GrCX.dpufHe 


a performing artist, professional Flamenco dancer, arts in education teacher, Native American educator, lover of life and collector of stories. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/atlanta/obituary.aspx?pid=171305172#sthash.27D5GrCX.dpuf
- See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/atlanta/obituary.aspx?pid=171305172

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The bigger picture

When you write obituaries for a living, it's all too easy to become a creature of habit. You may ask family/friends the same questions over and over. Perhaps you use particular adjectives or phrases so often that they've become cliche. Or maybe you focus so much on the writing of an obit that you never think about examining the deceased's life in a new way (slideshows, audio interviews, video collages, Twitter tributes).

When this happens, it's a good idea to take a step back and start looking at the entire cemetery rather than the individual tombstone.

In the comments, please share your tips for bringing a fresh point of view to an obit. Do you read the competition? Study historical examples? Turn to technological upgrades for new ideas? How do you come up with new and interesting ways to tell the deceased's story?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On the death beat with Margalit Fox

Margalit Fox, a senior writer at The New York Times and the author of "The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code," has written more than 1,000 obituaries. Last week, in the "Story Behind The Story" column, she shared some of her experiences on the death beat.

"Almost every day, I am given a mystery to solve – the mystery of how a life was lived, and why that life, although it has run its course, matters vitally to us all.

For the past decade I have worked as an obituary news writer at The Times, most recently as a senior writer. The job – all-consuming, life-giving and never dull – is perhaps the strangest in American journalism but also one of the very best."

Click here for more.