Monday, May 12, 2008

Jim Nicholson's "Acceptance Speech"

In a letter dated May 11, 2008, Jim Nicholson told the Society of Professional Obituary Writers:

I am deeply honored and humbled to have been selected to receive the first Lifetime Achievement Award of SPOW. Thank you.

On a very personal level it represents a final – and official - vindication.

Nearly 26 years ago when I began this new (the first obit page of any kind for the paper) obituary page for the Philadelphia Daily News, my column had the support of Assistant Managing Editor Tom Livingston, the original sponsor who thought we could not be a full service newspaper without an obit page, and Zack Stalberg, Editor of the Daily News.

Aside from them, in those early days, there were few supporters or fans in my own newsroom. The detractors were many, who viewed a 25-inch obit on a maintenance worker as a ludicrous waste of space.

We can all remember when the obituary writing job was reserved for old-timers spooling out their line, youngsters who needed to practice taking information error-free and others who were consigned by management to a short-term punishment or a long-term exile.

How the world of obit writing – and how the world perceives it - has changed in a quarter century. And each of you, individually, changed it because of who you are and how well you do what you do.

Never could I have imagined living to see the day when the craft of obituary writing would be so over-flowing with talent. Men and woman in a steep ascendancy as writers and reporters, indeed, many at an apex, choosing to be obituary writers. The roster of talent writing obits today defies logic.

No award in life ever means more than one which comes from a jury of one’s peers. And what peers!!

Thank you again. I remain,
Your Obedient Servant,
Jim Nicholson

Nicholson has accepted an invitation to speak at the Society of Professional Obituary Writers Convention that will be held April 23-25, 2009, in Charlotte, N.C.

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