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Joe Holley

Like most newspapers that take obituaries seriously, The Post started working on an advance obit for Sen. Ted Kennedy shortly after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in May 2008. We were ready when the senator's death was confirmed in the early hours of Wednesday morning, although we continued revising the story until the very last minute, which was about 9 o'clock last night.

The challenge, one we're still getting used to as we move more deeply into the Internet era, was how to advance the story for what was basically its second day, even though it had yet to be in the newsPAPER. By the time the newspaper version hit the streets Thursday morning, the news already was more than 24 hours old. The paper version of the obit is slightly different from the Web version to reflect that fact.

Speaking of revisions, I intend to show my George Washington University students a veteran editor's response to one of my early drafts of the Kennedy obit. His pencilled notes, scrawled in the margins of a printout, basically said, "This is terrible!" It got better one draft after another over the weeks and months, until the very last minute. The lesson, of course, is that you have to revise, revise, revise -- and you can't be thin-skinned about your work.

The Boston Globe, the senator's hometown paper, also was ready. The Globe's obit was prepared at least eight years ago by a reporter who's no longer with the paper. It's been updated several times in the weeks and months. The Globe's challenge was deciding whether to stop the presses in the early hours of Wednesday morning when Kennedy's death was confirmed.

By Joe Holley  |  August 27, 2009; 11:38 AM ET
Categories:  Joe Holley  
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