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Patricia Sullivan

As I tracked down the story on this fake advertisement , I was reminded of something that Bob Woodward asked me eight months ago: Do obit writers check to make sure the people we write about really are dead? When he first got to the Post, his old pal Carl Bernstein said that reporters at the Washington Evening Star used to call in fake obits as a joke.

Anybody can make a mistake, but we do fact-check. And I suspect that after this incident in the classified ad department, they will fact check "in memoriams" too. BTW, here's the retraction ad.

By Patricia Sullivan |  April 2, 2008; 12:06 PM ET  | Category:  Patricia Sullivan
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My apologies to one of our regular readers, Charlene, who mentioned here that we need a better spam filter; we do, and in both cleaning up old spam and responding to her, I inadvertently killed her comment. Sorry!

Posted by: Pat Sullivan | April 9, 2008 11:54 AM

No problem: my comment didn't relate to the article anyway.

Getting back to the prank: how do you even guard against this kind of thing? After all, not every person who wants to put in an In Memoriam ad is going to have a death certificate, and even a legacy.com search won't help if the original death took place many years ago, if no death notice was originally published, or if the person wasn't American or Canadian. Requiring a sworn affidavit is a bit much for someone paying you money, too.

Posted by: Charlene | April 9, 2008 9:44 PM

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