Thursday, October 13, 2005

Long paid obituaries

The Albany Times-Union ran a story today about a man who paid $2,600 to run a paid obit about his mother for two days. I guess the paper found this remarkable; it's commonplace out here in Oregon. Here is the link (I hope this works!):


Claire Martin said...

Whew. That's quite an obit.
I expect it did excite some talk in Albany. Among my parents' morning rituals is dissecting the paid obits in the Salem Statesman-Journal, looking for new ways families avoid using the word "died." My personal favorite was a Jacksonville, Fla., funeral director who found increasingly flowery alternatives. One man "Got on the Escalator From Time Into Eternity." Quite a few "Answered the Door to Find Jesus Knocking."
Those obits were collector's items. The novelist E.L. Konigsberg, who lived in Jacksonville and perhaps still does, kept a scrapbook of that funeral director's writing.

Most of the paid notices we get are in the $300-$500 range, which still seems high to me. I find the abbreviated obits frustrating because families tend to eliminate details about the deceased in favor of publishing a Christmas card list of familiy members and friends so they'll see their names in the paper.

Alana Baranick said...

i've noticed the increasing number of ultra-long paid death notices in the plain dealer (cleveland, ohio, if you didn't know) in the last couple of years - surprisingly at a time when the economy is supposed to be so bad that cleveland was considered the poorest city in the country a year ago. (a more recent study says that cleveland is tied with pittsburgh - my native land - as the most livable city in the united states. go figure.)

the cost is extraordinary for these long ones. although i don't deal in the money end of the death-in-the-paper business, i have been told several times about death notices that cost $1,400 or more. i believe that's for one day.

the style of many of these paid tributes is similar to the way i write my weekly "life story" obit feature. so, being self-absorbed, i've flattered myself that perhaps the relatives, who place them, may be hoping that we'll read them and say, "hey! that would make a great life story!" or they may believe that the life stories actually are taken from the death notices.

of course, that doesn't explain the long ones placed by out-of-town relatives. i think the public has accepted the high cost of paid obituaries the way we accept the high price of gasoline. we complain, but we pay the price in the end.

sidebar on claire's note about the way in which people die: joanne west cornish, our obit-conference pal, collects examples of those peculiar manners of death. and as i recall, that was the subject of a presentation at one of the earliest great obituary writers conferences. perhaps joanne or carolyn gilbert, founder of the international association of obituarists and founder of the great obit writers confabs, will address this subject under separate blogs. hint, hint. (fyi: i explain who everyone is for the benefit of newbies to our obit-obsessed rantings.)