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Death Stars?

Matt Schudel

Are the four smiling faces at the top of this page "Murderers' Row" or, as an article just out in Editor & Publisher calls us, "Death Stars"?

Joe Strupp, E&P's media reporter, interviewed several of us about the blog you're reading and asked the question that everyone asks at first: Isn't a little cheeky and disrespectul to have a blog about death? (Well, if you think we're not respectful, I'd urge you to read Adam Bernstein's beautiful tribute to his friend and obituary colleague at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gayle Ronan Sims. It's immediately below this post.)

At any rate, there's always a little queasiness, even in newsrooms, when it comes to discussing obituaries and those of us who write them. People sometimes assume we're lurking in mortuaries and morgues, peering into coffins or that we're constantly holding house parties for mass viewings of HBO's "Six Feet Under." Just last week, someone asked me yet again -- sigh -- if I raced out to accident scenes to "get the scoop."

Eh ... no. That's not what we do. We've tried to convey in this blog and elsewhere that writing obituaries is far from a gloomy undertaking (pardon the pun). It requires a great deal of reporting on people's lives and verifying names, places and dates.

But mostly, as Adam points out in his post below, an obituary is about life, not death. Yes, an obituary is prompted by someone's death, but the resulting story is meant to take the measure of a person's character, achievements, ambitions, integrity and, on occasions, faults.

It's exceptionally interesting and rewarding work. On this blog, we try to show a little of how we prepare our stories and how we're sometimes surprised or affected by what we learn. We attempt to lift the veil surrounding obituaries and, perhaps, surrounding death itself.

By Matt Schudel  |  April 18, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  | Tags: editor and publisher, gayle ronan sims, obituaries, philadelphia inquirer  
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Next: The Daily Goodbye

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