Sorry mam, you owe the newspaper $800 for that obit on your son who was killed in Afghanistan.

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.

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10 thoughts on “Sorry mam, you owe the newspaper $800 for that obit on your son who was killed in Afghanistan.

  1. Well done, Mick! You’re actually critical of capitalist free-market greed and the exploitation of the poor. Well done – I’m amazed.

    $800!!! That’s like £400 for an obit! That’s like our monthly housing bill. Sickening! That is a disgrace and the same goes on over here. We don’t even provide our servicemen with decent medical care when they return from combat, never mind low priced obituaries.

    You see, Capitalism is evil. Admit it. Go on…

    I admit there are evil people in power in our free market system. A big difference is we have freedom of choice and can ignore the evil greedy companies and vote with our dollars and words and now blogs with praise for the good companies. You can’t criticize Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro? Do you see the difference, Terry?

    BTW–Did you know that in the past 40 years, Fidel Castro has obtained so much wealth that he has surpassed the Queen of England?

  2. Firstly, she’s not the “Queen” of anything, she’s called Elizabeth Windsor. If you call her “the Queen” then you acknowledge her false authority. Americans love her more than the British – we should do a trade! How many barrels of oil would we get?

    I’m glad you admit that there are terrible people in power, especially in the White House. Do you not have a legal right in your constitution to impeach corrupt administrations? I wish we had that clause!

    But, i think you can only ‘ignore the evil greedy companies and vote with our dollars and words’ to a certain extent. You perpetuate the system that imbues the dregs of humanity with tremendous amounts of power. You can’t affect Halliburton, LMC etc. or stop the arms trade, or the illegal wars, or the terrorist operations – all committed in your name using your dollars. Have you seen the John Pilger documentary ‘The War on Democracy’? Please watch it and you can see frank admissions from many of your (bad) countrymen that democracy is a joke and that you, the American people, matter for nothing.

    As for my alleged ignorance: of course I can criticize socialism! I disagree with the firing squads and the censorship in Cuba, but I see it within context and not as an isolated phenomena. Most of Cuba’s ills are down to US sanctions and economic terrorism. What would Castro’s Cuba have been if you hadn’t interfered?

    I do admire Castro and Chavez. I admire them for their conviction, which is undeniable. They are subject to ridiculous propaganda campaigns by Washington and the truth is often difficult to see. Yet, if you compare them to other world leaders then they appear pretty alluring! Do you think, for instance, Dick Cheney, George Bush Snr or Tony Blair are better leaders than Castro or Chavez? In all honesty?

  3. Castro was from a mafia family and took power by killing with machine guns. Chavez was actually elected (by a splintered vote) so, I do have more respect for him than Castro. But now follow what the former paratrooper has done. He’s fixed the past two elections and has taken over foreign assets and shut down one of the major TV networks because they have criticized his tactics.

    The USA is so free, we allow Chavez oil company PDVSA/Citgo manipulate the price of oil on our stock exchange and sell to dumb, lazy Americans who don’t even know who Tony Blair is and may have voted for George Bush.

    In this country, the citizens make a difference. There is a national Citgo boycott and it is working. People are putting funny stickers on the Citgo gas pumps and bumper stickers on their cars. George Bush doesn’t do a thing. Nor should he.

  4. We believe we have more freedom because the control is on the local level. I see your point. It is easier to change here than in dictatorships.

  5. Perhaps Castro was from a ‘mafia’ family, although I’ve never heard that before and I can find no supporting evidence. But he revolted against his father and he organised the farmers into a revolt against poor pay and conditions. Hardly a criminal. It’s also well known that when the revolution started Castro purged the island of ‘mafia’ cartels who used the island as brothel prior to the Revolution. Where’d you get your information?? I can find no evidence to support your claims that Castro is as rich as Elizabeth Windsor or that he’s from a ‘mafia’ family.

    You don’t really ‘allow’ Citgo to trade. You NEED Citgo to trade. Is it not true that 20% of your imported oil comes from Venezuela and that in this current climate you NEED Venezuelan oil? You also have a personal vendetta against PDVSA/Citgo and this seems to guide your judgment, although I suppose it’s understandable in a way, if your job or interests were threatened by the rise of Chavez.

    The U.S. is free at a local level (to a certain extent). I agree – that’s something I learned from you. It’s just that you have very little influence over the Federal Government which is very worrying and very dangerous for the rest of the world. But you do have that special privilege called the constitution which means you could change all of that. If only educated Americans such as yourself could reach those ‘dumb, lazy Americans who don’t even know who Tony Blair is and may have voted for George Bush’ and effect change, like you said your doing with the CITGO thing.

    As for George Bush not doing anything about Chavez. The Administration (the Reich?) tried to put Chavez in the ‘Axis of Evil’ and label him as a terrorist which is clearly not true. They also spread disinformation, including the use of official White House spokesmen, alleging that the coup in Caracas was orchestrated by Chavistas. This again has been well documented as being untrue. So, the Bush-Cheney cartel did try to terrorize Venezuela/Chavez/CITGO but they were unsuccessful due to Chavez’s popular support across most of the world.

    Anyway, good debating with you – it’s been a while.

  6. I unfortunately had to write an Obit for my father in September. It contained normal info. However he had 8 children, their spouse’s and a host of brothers and sister. this made for a lengthy obit and cost over $300.00. You can’t leave anyone out of the Obit so the Star has you by the pocket. They know what they are doing it’s all business. Taking advantage of the deceased grieving family. Cruel business!!

  7. The Las Vegas Review Journal is ripping people off for obituaries. They will not even list survivors as a part of a regular obit. They wanted 420.00 or the same obituary I put in my local paper for 140.00 and I thought that was high. And to top it off there reps are rude, uncaring and treat you like dirt in your time of grief.

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