Archives for posts with tag: life stories

At the Wednesday coffee, editors confirmed the consensus from an earlier discussion: Reporters need a better script when making that call to grieving families.

Katherine will be in charge of creating it.

One example from yesterday suggests the need for a second script. It would start this way: “I’m Tom from the Missourian calling about a possible error in the obituary information submitted to the funeral home.”

Why? Because we’re going to call when there’s bad info on the obit. In yesterday’s case, it wasn’t clear whether a spouse had a hyphenated last name or kept her maiden name. We guessed, because it’s the only thing we could do. The family was called — even though there was a “run as-is” note on the obit — but hung up before we could even get the question out.

Now, there may be nothing we can do in that case. I hope a script — one that works for copy editors, ACEs as well as reporters — might help.

Directors from two funeral homes — Parker and Heartland — offered advice and explanations this morning about obits. Shortly after, I talked with Reporting students about some of them, and they came up with ideas of their own.

So I’m putting them down before I lose them — suggestions, questions, and decisions, not in any particular order:

  • Directors: Why aren’t you putting the “condolences may be sent to XXX website”. Answer: According to our Missourian stylebook, we should.
  • Directors: Some families want more names  of survivors — grandchildren, for instance. Response: Getting more names in our newspaper sounds like a swell idea. Are space limitation concerns overwrought or well-founded? Agenda item for next editors’ coffee.
  • Directors: We either don’t have or can’t give more information than what’s on the obit. All we do is pass along the information that is given by the families. Response: Agenda item for next coffee.
  • Directors: We’re the only newspaper that still considers obits as news. My response: Hooray! They like being able to say that, too, especially when their clients see the price of the crosstown paper.
  • Idea: Aggressively seek obits written whatever way the family wants for Directors’ response: positive. Joe Kinney of Heartland said he would link from his site to the obit in mymo. We built on the idea and considered a landing page/section approach.
  • Idea: Give families a pamphlet describing the Missourian approach to obits. Include mymissourian idea. Directors were positive. Reporters were more mixed on the idea. One described the reams of paper families already receive. But directors liked it because they could pass out the info at the right time while going over the obit notices part of meeting with families. Result: We’re going to try something here. What I’m not sure.
  • Reporter idea: Give those explainer pamphlets to pastors etc and hospices. My response: very smart idea.
  • Idea (from Jeanne): Change the name from “Life Stories” to “Tributes.” Parker’s Bruce Rice said it was our decision what we called them, not his. Reporters had a lively discussion. Alternatives included “obits” and “life story obits.” Result: Agenda item for coffee.
  • Directors: If it says “family out” (or similar) that really means the family doesn’t want to be contacted. Some of the discussion revolved around family — is it the immediate next of kin, or does it include “second cousin Claude” and everyone else? Unresolved. (Pop culture reference: second cousin Claude is in chatter between songs on the Circle Be Unbroken album. Culture reference: An album is a great big CD. Culture reference: A CD is a really short memory stick.)

I hope Jeanne, Liz and Laura will chime in. They were at the directors meeting. I also missed several good ideas from the reporters; perhaps Jeanne or Katherine can help fill the gaps.

I’ll be having coffee with one of the directors who couldn’t make it this morning. The professional staff (and whoever else wants to attend) will take up the matter at Wednesday’s 1:30 coffee session.

Bruce Rice of Parker Funeral Home and Joe Kinney from Heartland Burial and Cremation Society joined me this morning