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Obituaries are better in print?

June 26, 2009

The Washington Post has a blog post by obituary writer Matt Schudel going behind the scenes of its Michael Jackson obituary. This, in itself, is not a problem — in fact, some backstory posts fit well with the idea of radical transparency, of which I’m a fan.

Even Mr. Schudel’s praise of his co-writing colleague, though overly long and quoting too heavily from the obituary, is not offensive.

But in the very last paragraph, the post turns ugly (at least from my perspective), as Mr. Schudel turns it into a self-congratulation of print media:

The TV networks broke into regular programming, and snippets of Michael Jackson’s videos are all the place, but even in the diminished state that newspapers are in, sometimes it takes ink on paper to make sense of the inexplicable in our world.

But the Post is not alone. Chicago Tribune reporter Wailin Wong wrote this about how the news of Jackson’s death was reproted:

Gossip site TMZ.com, owned by Time Warner, was out in front with Jackson news and digital-era pipelines spread the word, as has happened before with other major celebrity news stories. But it was old media stalwarts that did the heavy lifting, with giants such as The Associated Press and the Web site of the L.A. Times, sister paper of the Chicago Tribune, reporting the fastest, most credible information on the emergency call for paramedics and ultimately his death.

Michael Jackson’s obituary is not about Michael Jackson, or his fans, or his legacy — it’s about making sure you, the reader, recognize the important role of newspapers and newspaper institutions! Now you know.

(Thanks to my friend Rick (@rouanr) for pointing out the Washington Post quote, though I think he gathered something entirely different from it. Chicago Tribune via Romenesko.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 6, 2009 2:09 pm

    Hmm. Is it true? 🙂

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