Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Obituaries take on a life of their own

The Baltimore Sun has an intriguing story (free registration required) today on obituaries -- about the growing number of Web sites devoted to obits and the rise in commissioned obits for people who want a say in how their legacy is described. Among those offering such services is Larken Bradley (pictured), obituary writer for The Point Reyes Light in Marin County, who has the Web site obituarywriters.com. According to the Sun, Bradley's service, called Obituaries Professionally Written, provides obituaries for people who want their final story written before death or for relatives in need of death announcements or obituaries.

The Sun story mentions Marianne Costantinou, who was the San Francisco Chronicle's chief obit writer -- a position for which she volunteered -- until she left the paper last year after taking a buyout.
    Costantinou, some of whose obits have been posted on the Web as stellar examples of the craft, prefers not to write about the famous or newsworthy.

    "I would look through the classified ads, the deaths column, to find one that had some little tidbit that caught your fancy and made you smile, like the lady who watered plants in San Francisco office towers," she said. "I would try to make them as personable as possible, because this was their last hurrah -- and very often their first."
The story also notes that a magazine devoted to obituaries is being planned. Of course it will be called Obit. And it is reported that the New York Times is taking obituaries to the next level and begun producing video obituaries in which the subjects are interviewed about their own lives. (Photo is from Bradley's Web site)

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