The Obit You'll Never See
It can get monotonous, but we do background checks and information searches for every obituary we do, even it it's a local person of no particular renown. Most of the time, we find nothing -- the vast majority of people lead their lives out of the public eye in more or less total anonymity.
Earlier today, I was preparing to write a standard local obituary of a retired minister when I ran his name through our database. Well, lo and behold, I discovered that our good man of the cloth had been arrested and convicted of a felony while in his mid-60s. Except for this one episode, about which I'm being deliberately vague, he had never been in trouble with the law before, had an upstanding record of volunteer service and apparently had a loyal following at his church.
I suppose you could say ministers are public figures in their churches and local communities, but this man had otherwise never been in the news and was not known to the broader D.C. region. If someone is essentially a private citizen, we give families the option of running the obituary or not. (Believe it or not, we don't willingly inflict psychic pain on people if we don't have to. Who says big-city newspapers don't have a heart?)
At any rate, I called a family member and explained what my reporting had turned up. The family was grateful to hear from me and decided, given the facts of the case, not to run an obituary at all. The pastor will go unremembered in our pages.
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