By Mick Gregory
Now I know why only funeral home directors and newspaper editors wear cheap dark suits.
This report another on the “high holiness” of journalists, how they are much better at making news judgements than bloggers or citizen journalists. You’ll find the whole amazing story on Ruth’s blog that I link to. Ruth Holladay’s columns are a big hit in Indiana. She reports on the new management at the Indianapolis Star and it is gold mine of material. Enjoy.
The Indianapolis Star’s top editor Dennis Ryerson is doing everything Gannett wants him to do. Even charge his community for their obits.
He chose as an example a paid obituary that dealt, poignantly, with a young son’s drug overdose. The dead man’s father wrote the obit, starting with the chilling words: “Yesterday my son took his own life. He did not intend to. He did something thousands of people have and are doing, using drugs.”
Ryerson then called the dad and interviewed him. But what Ryerson failed to explain is that obituaries in the paper cost a pretty price, in fact hundreds of dollars, and the Star, like other papers, takes advantage of a family’s grief by charging dearly for a service that once was free.
Fortunately, reporter Mark Thompson busted Ryerson brilliantly on Romensko’s blog. Here is what Thompson had to say:
“I noted that you called the father’s death notice in the Indianapolis Star about his son’s sad suicide an ‘obituary.’ Just because the
Indy paper has started using the phrase “paid obituaries” is no reason for us to embrace the bait-and-switch. Newspapers around the country are losing connection with their communities as they increasingly only run ‘paid obituaries’.
“But let us reporters preserve the distinction:
“DEATH NOTICES are a form of classified ad. They used to be called in by the funeral home, and generally contained a minimal amount of info re. the deceased and the time and place of the funeral service.
Ryerson did give the father extra play for his expensive classified ad.
The sick thing about it with me is that the rates they are charging families for the obit are much higher per column inch than charge their commercial advertisers such as car dealers.
It’s actually preditory pricing on the families who just experienced a tragedy. Isn’t that price gouging? Charging a higher price for goods or services at a time of need?
Do the math. Compare a full page auto ad, eight columns times 20 inches–160 inches with an obit–7 inches. If the family paid $700, that is $100 an inch. So, is the car dealer paying $16,000 for that ad? I doubt it.
Ruth has a comment on her posts about a grieving mother who was handed an $800 bill for her dead son’s obit. (She was given a half-price rate later, because her son died in the military.