Posted on 23. Feb, 2012 by Kristen Tribe
Last Tuesday my morning was started with a call from an angry reader.
The yelling started at 8:05, and I quit watching the clock somewhere around 8:09. The woman was upset because we did not print her relative’s obit as it was submitted by the funeral home. There were no mistakes in what we printed; she was just angry because we omitted some information.
I tried to explain to the woman that we write obituaries in a particular format. By using the same basic format for everyone, it ensures the obituaries are similar in style, and it keeps them at a reasonable length. We do have space limitations in the paper, so length is a consideration when we have 6 to 10 obits.
The following are our obit “rules:”
* We do not say that parents preceded a person in death if that person is over 50.
* We list only immediate family as survivors. This includes sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, brothers and sisters. We do not list aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews by name. The only time we list a niece or nephew by name is if the deceased had no children of his or her own.
*We do not list dogs, cats, or any other animal as a survivor.
*We can’t say the deceased “loved his grandchildren,” “enjoyed cooking” or “was a joy to all who knew her” because those are things we can’t verify. What if the deceased was not a “joy” at all, but instead a grump with not a kind word for anyone? Our obits include facts that can be verified if necessary — date and place of birth, college degrees, occupations, organizations memberships, etc.
*We also have particular wording that is used every time — no exception.
Having said all of this, I want to emphasize that we run obits for free. Most newspapers charge for obits, but it’s a service we’re happy to provide. If a family does not like the format we use, we always suggest they buy an ad and run the obit exactly as they wish.
In an ad, your loved one can be “wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus,” pets Wolfgang Spartikus and Rasputin Earl can be listed as survivors and you can highlight your loved one’s affinity for giving wet willies — you’re limited only by creativity.
The angry woman last week refused to listen to any sort of explanation and had no interest in buying an ad. Truth is, I wasn’t particularly interested in selling her an ad, I just wanted her to understand we’re not the uncaring, cold-hearted group she assumed.