Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another unlikely obit-writing casualty of newspaper reorganization

Obitland got a kick in the teeth yesterday (Aug. 18, 2008) when award-winning obituary writer Kay Powell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution informed colleagues and Fobits (obit fans) around the world that she would no longer be the obit diva of the AJC. (Clarification: Her colleagues are also her fans.)

Kay wrote:
As of Sept. 2, I'll no longer be writing obits for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In the AJC's second reorganization in a year, I'm moving to the Cobb County bureau to report on communities.


Many journalists would consider this is a nod to Kay's extraordinary interviewing, researching and storytelling talents. She's such a fabulous reporter and writer that her editors want to reward her by moving her out of obits and into "live" news.

But Kay relished her role as obit writer, obits editor and mentor of other obit writers, both at the AJC and worldwide.

In her note to us she wrote: The happiest part of my journalism career has been writing obits and developing friendships with each of you.

We mourn her "passing" from obits to community news.

As the death of a sibling makes one rethink one's own mortality, the inconceivable departure of Kay (and of Gerry Hostetler, who took a buyout from the Charlotte Observer in July) from the death beat prompts those of us who write obits for newspaper editorial departments to wonder, "Will I be next?"

I'm too stunned to say much more than that.

3 comments:

Lesli Klainberg, NYC said...

This is outrageous. Who will be writing for the AJC?

Kay is a national treasure and its a shame that the editors do not keep her right where she is.

I go to the AJC website almost every day to check on her obits.

What is the world coming too??

Bob said...

Here's the reply I sent Kay yesterday. I'm still in shock today.

Bob Davila
Sacramento Bee

Kay,

I'm shocked and very saddened to hear the news.

Meeting and listening to you at the obit writers conference this year was a personal and professional pleasure. Your warmth, talent and body of work truly inspired me to appreciate and enjoy the work I do as a relatively new obit writer, a position I hope to keep for some time to come. (Although, obviously, nothing is certain in our business climate today.) I've learned so much from you and other veterans in just a few short months, and I've been looking forward to next year's event in Charlotte. You will be be terribly, terribly missed.

Thank you so much for your charm, kind advice and inspiration.

All the best,
Bob

Kate Sweeney said...

Can't believe it. Kay's work on this beat is irreplaceable.