How the NY Times Picks News Obituaries

Apr 15, 2012 | 0 comments

In today’s New York Times, The Public Editor column, Arthur S. Brisbane wrote about how they pick the people who get news obituaries in the paper. Titled “Someone Dies. But That Is Only the Beginning.” the story provides an interesting glimpse behind the scenes at the most coveted news obituary placement on the planet.

Here’s a small snippet:

Human worth is not truly the coin of the obituary realm. What is, then? That is what Stuart Friedland, a reader in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., wanted to know when The Times took a pass on his father, Jacob Friedland. The elder Mr. Friedland had led one of those quintessentially worthy lives: a leader in business, community and temple on Staten Island; a philanthropist, a veteran, a collector of art, a centenarian.

All this, Mr. Friedland lamented, and yet space was given on the obit pages instead to the sketchy and the quirky, including, as he said, “a veterinarian who tried to scam racing with a horse switcheroo and, of course, lest we forget, a lady in Iowa who sculpted cows out of butter.”

Indeed, Times obituaries go not to the conventionally virtuous but to the famous, the influential, the offbeat and to others whose lives, through writerly intervention, can be alchemized into newsprint literature.

The piece goes on to feature two Times obituary writers and their thoughts on some of the life stories they have contributed during their time on the Dead Beat. Read the full story.

A Good Goodbye