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News Obits and Funeral Services

Patricia Sullivan

Should news obituaries contain information about memorial and funeral services?

At The Washington Post, the answer is no. Our long-standing policy says since we're writing about a person's life on the occasion of their death, service information doesn't belong in the article. But from time to time, readers question that rule and they make some good points.

I had the pleasure of working over the past couple of days on a news obit about John Dougherty, a Washington lawyer who lived a very interesting life. His son runs startup news site in Chicago, and in his blog, he wrote about the experience of so many -- he never really paid attention to obits until someone close to him died. And he raised an excellent question: By leaving out the memorial service information, and requiring people who want to run that information to take out a death notice (which is a paid advertisement), are newspapers "treating death like a profit center"? I'd welcome your comments below.

BTW, Mr. Dougherty's memorial service is Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. in the Bethlehem Chapel of the National Cathedral in Washington.

By Patricia Sullivan  |  October 30, 2007; 4:41 PM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan  
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