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Archive for April 23rd, 2011

I enjoyed the full-page obituary of Marijane Auten Johnson Bensmiller Zegel VanNess Torjesen that ran in the Des Moines Register a week ago (might be easier to read online in the Legacy version, but check out the first link to see the page). She lived a full life and her son told her story well (so well the Register’s Mike Kilen did a story on the obit).

That’s what an obituary should be, a genuine story of the life just ended, not the formulaic string of facts that too many newspapers run.

Most people don’t have family members who can tell their stories as well as Stan Zegel told his mother’s story. That’s why I suggested last summer that newspapers and individual journalists could develop a successful business model around telling commissioned life stories (not just obituaries, but for weddings, anniversaries, retirements and the like).

I wonder how many families would commission a journalist to write as full an obituary as Zegel wrote about his mother (and pay to publish it in a newspaper, online, or in a booklet). I would love to have such a keepsake story about my father, who died in 1978, or my nephew who died in 2009.

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