Friday, June 30, 2006

Censoring paid obituaries/death notices.

Cathy Dunphy, writer of the Toronto Star's "Lifelines" feature, wants to know about other newspapers' policies regarding the censoring of paid obits, a.k.a. death notices.

In lieu of a request for memorial donations in a paid obit, the bereaved relatives of one deceased mom asked mourners to wage a letter-writing campaign. They were unhappy about the "uneven" health care their mom had received from professional caregivers.

They ended their prepared obituary with a request that mourners send letters to the minister of health, requesting that more funds go toward providing the elderly with safe and dignified care in their final days.

Cathy's paper wouldn't run the request line because they deemed it too political.

Cathy said: "Our paper's classified people declared that this was a political statement and that our policy forbids running it. They also said that paid death notices are officially considered as editorial material. (That was a surprise.) It ran in the Globe and Mail though, which is where I saw it.

"Do you know anything about this issue? Our ombud is looking into it and asked me if I knew what other papers' policies are.

"Thanks for anything you can do."

Please share your thoughts on this one.


Anonymous said...

If the family is paying for the death notice, anything short of libel sounds fine to me.

Alana Baranick said...

The ombudsman - or is that "ombudswoman"? - at the Toronto Star addressed Cathy's concern in her column July 1, 2006.

You can read it at:

Kay Powell said...

Such a request in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution paid death notice might get edited out for its advocacy, if it came to the attention of someone high enough to make that call.

Since I consider the family written obit an American folk art, I agree with the blogger who wrote that the family's paying for it and if it's not libel, it's OK, even when it's tasteless.

But, as news obits editor, I have nothing to do with paid death notices which are handled by advertising.

david said...
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