Thursday, February 12, 2009
Steamboat Springs One of my duties as this newspaper's education reporter was compiling and editing obituaries submitted by our readers and funeral homes across the country. It wasn't the most glamorous duty, but it was an important and often overlooked one.
For the families of the deceased, a newspaper obituary serves as a lasting farewell, a concrete, tangible biography that is cut out and saved in scrapbooks for future generations. The published obituary also is a chance to share a loved one's life story with the community, bringing recognition to individuals who may not have lived in the public eye but are no less deserving of having their stories shared and memorialized for all to see.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today takes a community-first approach to obituaries, and that's something I hope never changes. Unlike most metro dailies that charge for every line of obituary text and then present them in the form of obituary classifieds, the Pilot & Today publishes obituaries for free and with few restrictions. We ask only that the deceased have a connection to Routt County, and we request that family members keep obituaries to 600 or fewer words. We'll even print a small picture of the deceased, if that's what the family wants.
Years of handling obituaries and interacting with surviving family members also have taught me that newspapers should be far less rigid in how an obituary is written. At the end of the day, as long as it's appropriate for print, what good does it do to dictate how a family chooses to say goodbye with the written word?
Obituaries appear in the A section of the Sunday Pilot & Today, and we make every effort to publish each obituary received during the preceding week.
Also as a courtesy to our readers, we publish - for free - memorial service and death notice announcements. Often, a family wants to alert the community to the passing of their loved one, as well as the time and day of the memorial service or funeral, but isn't prepared to sit down and author an obituary.
Death notices and memorial service announcements are short and to the point, and they appear on the Happenings page. We'll publish a memorial service notice for the three days preceding the actual service, giving time for friends and acquaintances to see the announcement and make plans to attend the service.
Obituaries, death notices and memorial service announcements often are submitted to the newspaper by the funeral home working with the family of the deceased. But family members are always welcome to submit the information themselves. Reporter Melinda Dudley handles obituaries; she can be reached at 970-871-4203 or email@example.com. City editor Mike Lawrence takes care of death notices and memorial service announcements. They can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can call Mike at 970-871-4233.
And as always, I'm more than happy to answer any questions or address any concerns. Call me at 970-871-4221 or e-mail email@example.com.
Brent Boyer's From the Editor appears weekly in the Thursday edition of the Steamboat Today.