Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Living Dead

The Associated Press reported through a statment late last night from Betty Ford that her husband, former U.S. President Gerald Ford has passed away. I saw the news on Sportscenter, got about three instant messages and an update on my BlackBerry. Call it the information age live and in my bedroom.

My favorite (not that this stuff is enjoyable) part about events like these, is reading the 3-4,000 word obituaries that get mysteriously written and posted on websites within minutes. Judging by this mammoth the NY Times wasn't playing around with this one.

Of course, these obits are written months, sometimes years, in advance of the person actually dying. There's hundreds of these folks -- important figures and newsmakers -- that news organizations are literally just waiting to die. It's so particularly fascinating to me because I am history dork of ridonculous porportions, but also because the newspaper industry has changed so much. Breaking news has got to get the story right, and its got to do so right now. After all, by tomorrow morning, this story is cold pizza.

Not to be morbid, but I would love to know who else is on the list of the Living Dead. In other words, who else has obits just waiting in the wings?

Posted by Darren Sands at 12:06 AM | link

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Most places have obit shelves, with a host of partial or complete obits. At NPR, some were complete reports; others were just cuts of sound pulled from interviews.

Hmm, as for other obits to be prepared... Fidel Castro, obviously. And Louis Farrakhan, Ruby Dee, and Bob Barker. Speaking players in Watergate, there's Mark Felt, a.k.a. "Deep Throat," and other political figures like Daddy and Barbara Bush, and first ladies Nancy Reagan and Betty Ford.

Also... Dorothy Height, Queen Elizabeth, Cicely Tyson, and Maya Angelou.

It is a morbid thing to think about, but this is the news business. And I'd like to think that looking ahead will allow journalists to do more justice in marking the life of a great (or not-so-great), rather than rushing at the last minute to make deadline.

Posted by Blogger Duck @ 3:50 AM, December 27, 2006 #
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