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Breaking Deaths

We're a little busy today with the deaths of actress Deborah Kerr, Admiral William Crowe and talk-show host Joey Bishop. And of course, our many, many local obits. Luckily, two of the three big ones were written in advance -- Adam wrote the Kerr article several years ago, Pat wrote the Crowe piece two days ago and Matt ... well, he's on deadline right now with Bishop.

By Patricia Sullivan  |  October 18, 2007; 4:24 PM ET
 
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Adam Bernstein wrote my father's obituary
Luigi A. Vagnoni that appeared June 23.
He left out the names of his parents and
deseased sister, we wished we had a choice
but he never called us to confirm if this was all right with the family.He should of
asked us what we wanted left out, this still bothers me.

Posted by: Steve Vagnoni | October 18, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if this is the best forum, but I am happy to explain now to the Vagnoni family that the end of a story contains survivors only. Our policy has never been to include names of deceased parents and siblings.

Posted by: Adam | October 18, 2007 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I have always wondered how decisions are made as to who has an extensive obituary prepared. What are the criteria?

Posted by: Andrew | October 18, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

It's not really scientific. We have advancers ready for most presidents (usually written by the reporter who covered the White House of that president) and major world figures, but unfortunately we don't match the 1,000 or so that the New York paper reportedly has on file.

All of us bring our own interests to this beat so we tend to write advancers on people who are prominent in those fields. For example, Adam is a big old movie buff so he has written quite a few on actors/actresses/directors. Matt loves jazz, so he has taken the opportunity to write about musicians. Our editor, Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb, who also writes, is interested in civil rights figures. I tend to lean toward Watergate players, accomplished women and natural scientists.

But we all also take assignments when we hear that so-and-so is likely to die soon and we know that person played a major role in the world or is well known for some reason, we jump on it.

We love doing advancers, but they take longer and there's a balance we always have to strike between writing journalistic biography and handling the many obits of local people who contributed in less-well-known ways to the world.

Posted by: Pat Sullivan | October 18, 2007 6:21 PM | Report abuse

"But we all also take assignments when we hear that so-and-so is likely to die soon and we know that person played a major role in the world or is well known for some reason, we jump on it."

That's a bit macabre, don't you think? Still, I guess it is pragmatic.. I'll let you know when I'm getting close. But, should you choose to write about me, remember "de mortuis nihil nisi bonum."

Thanks for the illuminating response.

Posted by: Andrew | October 18, 2007 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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