On obituaries ...

Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beginning tomorrow, the Peninsula Clarion will begin charging a fee to publish obituaries.

Many of you will not be happy with that. A few of you may wonder what took us so long to adopt what has become an industry norm.

In fact, the Clarion has resisted this trend in newspaper publishing for as long as possible. For the past decade the people who run this newspaper have watched as other publications large and small, in all 50 states, have adopted the fee model for obituaries as a necessary part of business.

Why did we take so long? Green-eye-shade, ink-stained tradition, mostly.

You see, for generations newspaper folks considered obituaries as part of the community's news of the day. We treated them as stories. Papers way larger than us used to have a dedicated obituary writer whose whole day consisted of interviewing survivors, doing some background research and writing mini-profiles of those who'd passed -- perhaps writing more about that person than had ever been published.

We wrote those obituaries as news items -- for the community, for the survivors, and for the historians and researchers who would come along generations hence, looking for the rough draft of history that newspapers provide.

Traditions die hard, especially for us on this issue.

They way we see it, obituaries, paid for or not, are still a part of the news of the day. That's why, even though we will begin asking a fee for publishing obituaries, we are going to continue to treat them with the respect they deserve. We'll still edit for consistency and style, we'll correct misspellings when we find them, we'll fix grammar and punctuation, we'll make sure they are something to share, now and for generations hence.

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