There are a number of places where one
can read well-written obituaries and other sources to assist
those writing them on their own. As well, the Internet is always
Obituaries change in their role and style as society changes. I
remember my grandmother showing me the obituary of her father, who died
in the 19th century in Ireland. She and her sisters were not listed as
surviving members of the family – only the boys were listed
in obituaries at that time. Of course, obituaries are much more
inclusive now. But researchers point out that even in news
obituaries today, women are the subject in only one out of
Newspapers have always published the obituaries of the rich and famous.
recent trend is to include the lives of ordinary
people as well. Jim Nicholson, a reporter the Philadelphia
Daily News, was one
of those who popularized the common person obituary. In the 1980s, he
started writing feature
obituaries of ordinary people chosen at random. Everyday
people, it turns out, can be written about in an
interesting way. Concluded Nicholson about his style of interviewing:
“There aren’t any boring people, there are just
Other practitioners include Alana Baranick of the Cleveland
Plain Dealer, Jim
Sheeler of the Rocky Mountain News, and Stephen Miller of the New York
Sun. Those three have co-written a book for other journalists: Life
on the Death Beat.
Lived in The Globe and Mail profiles the obituaries of
people, written by a friend or relative. Recently Maclean’s
began to feature the obituary of an ordinary person in each issue.
Appearing on the last page of the magazine, it is appropriately titled The
End. A collection of 42 of Jim Sheeler's obituaries
have been published as an interesting book, Obit. (Read the review.)
Reading these professionally written obituaries can be appreciated in
their own right, and can be a learning experience for those looking to
Obituaries continue to evolve. After the September 11
terrorist attacks, the New York Times began to publish Portraits
Grief. These short biographical sketches were a way to
event through the individual victims. After the Virginia Tech shootings
in April, 2007, the Internet social networking site Facebook came to
prominence as the premier way that college students now grieve. (Read
the article "Facebook: A New Way to Mourn?")
How about a video obituary? The New York Times is already doing this.
The day after humor columnist Art Buchwald died on January 17, 2007,
visitors could watch his video
obituary on the newspaper’s
website. The humorist himself was in the video, and - for once - was
not joking when he said, "Hi. I'm Art Buchwald, and I just died!"
A similar tribute was done with Canadian journalist June Callwood. She
recorded an interview
with the CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos just days before she
This an inspiring look at an extraordinary
person. (Watch the interview.)
Newspapers still have the
dominant place as the publishers of obituaries. There isn’t
(at least not yet) an Obituary section in Craigslist,
Journalist Steve Outing, however, after his frustrations with
newspaper options following the death of his own father, has suggested
a whole “new business model” for newspapers. These
formats would “combine the strengths of print, the
‘citizen journalism.’” (Read the article "Let's Breathe Some New Life Into Obituaries.")
These new models are emerging, and I hope this website can help those
who would like to participate. Newspapers are expanding
their coverage by linking to online partners such as Legacy.com, Remembering.ca,
or Obituaries Today. These are other sources, such as
those provided by funeral homes, that offer people the chance to
send online condolences, and supplement traditional written obituaries
with pictures and videos. Some funeral homes even broadcast services on
the Internet to enable those who can't travel to attend to be able to
view the event.
The Internet is opening up whole new avenues for families and
to remember those who have died. Anyone can do their own
thing, right now.
Free of charge, anyone can set up a blog which could serve as a
remembrance website with an invitation for others to add their
comments. Observations, pictures and videos of a life can be submitted
to social networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook, Flickr,
Resources and Links:
Blog of Death
This website features the obituaries of the
famous, as well as links to many other sites about the subject.
Beat "Many journalists view obituary writing as a
dead-end job, even though surveys show obits to be among the most
widely read and enduring stories in the newspaper," says Alana Baranick
about her work.
Eons The website for Baby Boomers. In the Obits section, you can read the obituaries of the famous, place an alert to
be notified when someone you are interested in dies, create a tribute
to a loved one who has died (including a search of archives going back
to 1937), and check out other resources.
Page "The lure of the obituary
both as history and as literary art form" is the focus here. Carolyn
organizes an association and annual journalists conference on obituary writing.
Obituarian This website offers a professional
Writers Larken Bradley is the obituary writer for a
newspaper in California and offers a professional obituary writing
Writer Christine Moffa offers a specialty writing
service for personalized obituaries, life stories, and biographies.
Obituary Bookshelf Search results of Amazon.com
Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of
Obituaries By Marilyn
Johnson. "Fascinating book about the art,
history and subculture of obituary writing," says The New York Times.
(Read the review.)
Every Stone a Story: Manitoba’s Buried History By Charles Brawn and Dale Brawn. The
Brawns tell the stories of dozens of fascinating Manitobans. Each story
features a photo of the person’s headstone. (Read
on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers By Alana
Baranick, Jim Sheeler, and Stephen Miller. Good examples and advice for
working journalists from three experienced in the field.
Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People Who Led Extraordinary
Lives By Jim Sheeler. "Obit would be a great book for anyone who
delights in accounts illuminating the human condition." (Read
"Revealing Lives" is the theme of this new website and print