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The heartless selling of obituaries...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by schiezainc, Aug 30, 2010.

  1. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    So, my grandmother passed away Wednesday evening and, because she's not a local from my coverage area, I decided not to put an obit for her in our paper (Probably would have gotten it really cheap and/or free).

    Anyhoo, my father paid to put a small notification in the Providence Journal and they charged him $400 for what amounted to a one column, six inch insert.

    Here's my question. How heartless is this?

    I know that charging for obituaries is nothing new at some papers but, as an industry, are we leaving our customers and reader-base when they need us most?

    Obviously newspapers are important enough that most families feel an obituary HAS to be placed but at what point are we putting our financial gain over our overall purpose (Or our idealized purpose) of serving of community?
  2. Smash Williams

    Smash Williams Well-Known Member

    At every paper I've worked for, death notices are free but you have to pay for longer obits by the word.

    The "greater good" of an obit is to tell the community someone has died and basic funeral info. To charge for something else is not heartless at all.
  3. schiezainc

    schiezainc Well-Known Member

    Eh, I don't know. I guess I'm just suffering from sticker shock.

    Have you seen the cost of some of these things?

    I typed up a 300-400 word obit for my grandmother and printed them at Staples and they cost me a grand total of $20. That same thing would have been about $2K in the Projo.

    Maybe it's because I know how much work actually goes into putting together an obit. Maybe it's because I know the space required for an obit isn't as valuable as the prices would lead you to believe. Either way I can't believe what some papers are charging for these things. It's ridiculous and, the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if Facebook ads overtake printed obituaries and, thus, remove another big source of income for papers in the future.
  4. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    Isn't the cost the same as an ad? That's the impression I was always under.
  5. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    I remember how big a shock it was when papers first started charging for obits. Now it's just, "Meh"

    Still, I think papers should at least allow the basic info for free, and if someone wants to fill a whole column with Auntie Em's death, then charge them.
  6. e_bowker

    e_bowker Member

    When my father died 10 years ago, the Trentonian charged us $75 (IIRC) to put his obit in the paper. And there wasn't anything more than basic information in it. That seemed like a lot of money to me at the time.

    Not sure what we charge at my shop, but I do know we offer a free, basic obit (name, immediate family, when the services are, that sort of thing) and then charge if you want to put a longer one in there. We don't change a word of the longer one, though. If you want to ramble on for 12 paragraphs about how Uncle Floyd loved his dog Fido, it's your money.
    I know not all papers are this way, but it seems fair. The basic info is in there as a public service, the flowery stuff is available if you want to pay for it. We got some complaints at first because, much like the website, it was free for years and people didn't think they should have to pay for it. In time, that has smoothed over.
  7. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Some people on here may know this story better than me, but my boss once told me about a small-town weekly one-man-band newspaper guy who thought everyone had something interesting and that everyone ought to have at least one feature written about them -- at least when they die. So this guy visited a lot of families of recently deceased persons in the coverage area and found something interesting about the deceased's life to write about. Apparently his paper was well known for these postmortem feature stories and large number of the stories turned out quite good.
  8. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    Is it heartless?

    Not when you compare how much funeral homes charge.

    We're getting screwed every which way in the industry. The last thing I'm worried about is how much we charge for obituaries.
  9. Suicide Squeezer

    Suicide Squeezer Active Member

    Most of the funeral homes simply build the cost of the newspaper obit into their own charge, and profit even more off of it in the damn paper.
  10. Desk_dude

    Desk_dude Member

    It is best to run a small obit in the paper but write a longer one for Legacy.com. Papers link to that site. People can also sign a guestbook on the site.
  11. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Just remember funeral home directors are only slighty above used car salesmen on the evolutionary scale, as a wisened copy editor used to tell me.
  12. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    No, they're worse because they're always dealing with people whose emotions are all over the map. Most people aren't distraught when they're car shopping.
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