Obituary

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If you are interested in the death metal band, see Obituary (band)

An obituary is a notice of the death of a person, usually published in a newspaper, written or commissioned by the newspaper (rather than written by relatives), and usually including a short biography.

Contents

Writing obituaries

Because of the short time between the notification of a death and the next publication deadline, most newspapers have one or more clerks who specialize in typing such things as obituaries. Sometimes, this task is given to a cub reporter (often to allow an editor to evaluate writing and copyreading skills), although today many obituary clerks also have other duties (such as typing news releases and social news).

Many newspaper affiliates (such as the Associated Press) have pre-written obituaries for famous people who are still alive; these obituaries are updated when the well-known person dies.

Content of obituaries

The content of obituaries varies, but (at least in American newspapers) usually follow a similar format:

  • The person's name, age, where he/she lived and death date and place. Sometimes, the circumstances surrounding the death are publicized as well.
  • Information about visitation (time, date and place when they can view the corpse and visit with family members); the funeral, usually at a funeral home and/or church; and often, the burial site. Sometimes, the names of pallbearers are also listed.
  • The decedant's birth date (along with a maiden name if the decedent was a female who married), his/her birth town and his/her parents (often along with the mother's maiden name included).
  • Marriage information (name of spouse, date and location of marriage).
  • Where the decedant was employed (and if he/she is now retired).
  • Memberships, from social and religious to vocational.
  • Hobbies, notable accomplishments and other interests, as appropriate.
  • A listing of survivors, including spouse, children (and sometimes, their spouses), grandchildren, siblings and other close relatives and friends.
  • A listing of close relatives who preceded the decedant in death. Unless the decedant is young or is survived by his/her mother or father, his/her parents are not listed (especially when the decedent is very old, as it is assumed the parents are also deceased).

While in the U.S. obituaries are almost always reverent and respectful, in Britain it is far more permissible for the writer to attack or mock the subject. An example is the Daily Telegraph's 2005 obituary (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/03/08/db0803.xml) of royal commentator Harold Brooks-Baker.

Custom obituaries

In recent years, some American newspapers have allowed relatives of the deceased to publish "custom obituaries," or death notices that do not follow the traditional style. "Custom obituaries" frequently include fond memories of the deceased, expanded information about hobbies and other activities in his/her life, etc. Frequently, such notices use euphemisms for the term "died" (e.g., passed away, went to be with his/her Lord, etc.), often to soften the blow of one's passing.

Many people are willing to pay a fee to publish "custom obituaries" so they can elaborately tell their beloved's story. These obituaries are very popular with readers (who enjoy reading about friends and strangers beyond routine obituaries), although others believe they deviate from an obituary's true purpose – to acknowledge a death and provide information such as funeral details.

Premature obituaries

Occasionally premature obituaries are published while the person concerned is still alive, either accidentally or intentionally. Most of these are accidental and concern well known personalities (such as Mark Twain and Bob Hope). Some others are published because of miscommunication between newspapers, family members and the funeral home, often resulting in embarassment for everyone involved.

However, some people will seek to have an unsuspecting newspaper editor publish a premature obituary out of malice, usually to gain revenge on someone or obtain a financial settlement they believe they are entitled to. To that end, nearly all newspapers now have policies requiring that death notices come from a reliable source (such as a funeral home), though even this has not stopped some pranksters such as Alan Abel.

Obituaries in particular publications

Obituaries are a notable feature of The Economist, which publishes precisely one full-page obituary per week, reflecting on the subject's life and influence on world history. Past subjects have ranged from Ray Charles to Uday Hussein.

The British Medical Journal encourages doctors to write their own obituaries for publication after their death.

See also

External links

fr:Nécrologie pl:Nekrolog

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