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The Obituary

Date post: 25-Feb-2016
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The Obituary. How to prepare for the worst. Obituaries or Obits as they are commonly referred to in the news industry – are probably the hardest thing to write. Covering politics in Washington D.C. is easier than writing an obit. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
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The Obituary
Page 1: The Obituary

The Obituary

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How to prepare for the worst

Obituaries or Obits as they are commonly referred to in the news industry – are probably the hardest thing to write. Covering politics in Washington D.C. is easier

than writing an obit. Main reason: This deals with getting an

interview with the family of someone who died and asking them to relive some of their most beautiful memories which can be very painful.

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Who gets an obit?

Prominent figures such as: Politicians (local or national). Entertainment Icons. Philanthropists. Those in the armed forces. Major Local, state or national contributors that

made an impact in the world.

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How do you find out when someone important is deceased?

Usually the family or friend or the funeral home puts an advertisement about the person’s death in the newspaper.

If someone catches it before it prints they call you up.

Or if it prints and an editor catches it they will notify a reporter.

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Things you need to know

You need to know their age. The cause of death:

Bike accident. Cancer. What kind of cancer. Medical conditions they suffered from that may

have caused the death. What they were involved in while they were


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Tough questions

In this time of need the family may or may not answer your questions.

This is when you try to get the friends to comment on the person.

Usually they are more than happy too but be aware that any question can set them off – this is a terrible time for them.

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Other ways to cover a death…

Go to the memorial or funeral service. There the family may or may not speak about

the person. If it is a funeral at a church, the priest may

say a few words that that the family has asked them to say.

Take note of how many people are there, and when they cry, what is said and if there are any other descriptive elements.

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Covering a soldiers funeral.

This is tricky. Sometimes you are allowed on base to listen to

the funeral. Sometimes you are not. If you are not allowed inside the church you

can always go to the cemetery and listen to what the reverend has to say there and possibly get quotes from the family after the burial.

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Keep in mind this is a hard time

You need to be sympathetic to the family’s loss.

Don’t shove a recorder in their faces. When asking questions be aware of your tone. Don’t go into the funeral or the cemetery

wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Dress properly.

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Some Tips

Some obits on famous people have already been written. All that needs to be done is to fill in the blanks.

In the case of an emergency you have to be prepared.

If someone important dies you must check the newspaper’s archives so that you can put what they were involved in and their history.

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First Mexican-American Mayor of El Paso https://www.youtube.com/watch?


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Ways to find out more about them…

Twitter Facebook Whitepages.com Cause of death – Through an Open Records

Request you can find the cause of the death through the county morgue.

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Considering the family

Sometimes the family makes interesting requests, like asking you that you not put the person’s age or what they died of.

Normally, this would be ignored but depending what paper you write for – including or not including certain information may be an exception to the rule.

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What to ask the family

What was he/she like? What did they like to do?

How old was he/she when they passed away? How did it happen?

If it was a long battle with cancer – ask some details as to when they were diagnosed? Signs of diagnosis, etc.

If it was in war – when did they enlist. What happened.

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What to ask…

If it’s a soldier you need to know straight off the bat that the DOD (Department of Defense) releases VERY LITTLE info on the soldiers death. They like to give you some rehearsed “line” on how the soldier died defending some operation or while in training.

They release little so you know very little and they expect the press to get no more.

Know that THIS is an injustice for the soldier so NEVER settle for these limited details that the DOD gives.

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What to ask a soldier’s family

Soldiers families are always more than willing to talk. They want to make sure their son or daughter gets their just representation.

They will tell you more details about how their son/daughter died. These are the details you need to get.

Once you get those details contact the base’s Public Relations staff, from which the soldier was based at to confirm the information. 9 times out of 10 they won’t. IN which case you write: Officials did not

release further information.

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In general what you need to know:

Questions Review How they died? When they died? (Date and time of death.) What they were like when they were alive? How old they were? If a disease what kind? What was it called?

How long had they been battling? Accomplishments? If in combat – details of the combat?

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Have the funeral arrangements been made? If so, when and where. If not, you simply put: Funeral services are still

pending. If family members don’t want to talk ask the

friends these questions – mostly about how they were.

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Thinks to remember When covering a service dress respectfully

and act respectfully. Don’t pester a family member after they say

“no comment.” or say they don’t want to be bothered.

Notice the details – the way a family member cries, or if they hug the coffin, if they release a dove or if a certain song is played in the decease’s honor.

Notice how many people are there to remember that person.

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Write your classmate’s obituary. Questions you need to ask is how old they

are, what they were into. There are certain facts about your death on the

Death Card you picked. Some of those details are very general – you

can fill in the blanks about any specifics. Be creative but not unrealistic.

Needs to be at least 1 page single spaced. Can be up to 3 pages.

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