Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Obituaries’ Category

New York Times story on John Nash's deathI saw a bit of sexism on display by media and Twitter users in noting the deaths of John and Alicia Nash, the couple whose lives were portrayed in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

The Nashes died in an accident Saturday while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Two people died in the crash. Admittedly, one of them was a Nobel Prize winner whose mind was immortalized by Hollywood as “beautiful.” But the other passenger killed in the crash, was also a powerful character in the same movie, her portrayal by Jennifer Connelly winning an Oscar. But Alicia got no mention in the headline, tweet or lead of the New York Times:

As you can see from the screenshot above, Alicia Nash was in the photo the Times used and did get a mention in the second paragraph.

Clearly John Nash was the more famous half of the couple. He did have the “Beautiful Mind,” and his death was absolutely noteworthy. But isn’t an elderly couple dying together newsworthy in itself? Don’t lots of couples hope they will die together, rather than leaving one to mourn the other? Her death is an important part of this story.

And, oh, by the way, she was an outstanding and memorable character, too, in that movie. Wouldn’t her death, if she had died alone, have been worthy of a New York Times obituary (even with the gender imbalance of Times obits), headline and tweet? If she were the brilliant mathematician and Russell Crowe had won an Oscar for portraying her husband (he was nominated for an Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind”), I think we can be pretty sure they would have shared mentions in the headlines and tweets.

And if you want to defend leaving her out, don’t use Twitter’s character count or the tighter counts of headlines as an excuse. Alicia is six characters, wife is four. Add a comma or an ampersand to either of those words and you can add an important newsworthy person and element to your tweet or headline for less than 10 characters. I’d like to hear a defense if you have one, but not that one.

While I single out the Times because it’s the most prominent newspaper, it was not alone in its focus on a single death from the crash:

Note that the New York Post uses a photo of Russell Crowe, but not Alicia Nash.

These media tweets didn’t mention Alicia Nash, but the accompanying headlines did:

This media tweet didn’t mention Alicia, but the cutline with the photograph did:

To be fair, some media outlets and journalists did mention Alicia Nash in their tweets about the crash, rarely by name:

Update: Here’s a tweet, called to my attention in a comment, that gave Alicia her due:

I’ll be inviting response from New York Times editors and will add it if they send anything. If you wrote one of the tweets above and would like to respond, I invite your feedback in the comments or on Twitter (I’ll add your tweet to the post if you mention me).

But let’s close with a little recognition for Alicia Nash, who died with her husband, John, in a crash Saturday:

Update: Tom McKay tweeted at me that he mentioned Alicia Nash in his headline.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

When I was in France last month for the New Media in Russia conference, Oksana Silantieva interviewed me about the Complete Community Connection. I told her the concept for a new business model for news remains valid, but the details would need to be updated since I first proposed it four years ago. We also discussed my suggestion for a new business model for obituaries.

Read Full Post »

For a reporter seeking information about someone who died, the lack of an obituary, or even a death notice, should be a red flag.

But sometimes (clearly a small percentage of deaths) the red flag doesn’t mean the person wasn’t real; it’s an indication of how the newspaper business has changed.

This blog post isn’t much at all about Manti Te’o, though it grew from the post I wrote yesterday about linking and its role in the journalists’ falling for the dead-girlfriend hoax. I said that journalists should provide relevant links in their stories, and the lack of an obituary to link to should have alerted reporters parroting the story of Lennay Kekua’s death that more research was needed.

“Who dies without an obituary?” I asked. (more…)

Read Full Post »

In the discussion of journalists’ failures in the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, I have suggested that journalists should have looked for an obituary of the purported girlfriend. And that has raised some questions about how obituaries and death notices are handled by newspapers today.

A comment by Rob Pegoraro on my post earlier today and tweets by Maureen Boyle have raised questions about whether everyone has an obituary (responding to Rob, I acknowledge that it probably happens, but say that at least a death notice usually gets published).

(The link above is to a piece by the late Jim Naughton, A Death Notice for Obituaries, written in 2010, which prompted a response from me.) (more…)

Read Full Post »

Alan Mutter documents the no-longer-surprising fact that newspaper advertising revenues continued to fall for the 20th straight quarter in the first three months of 2011.

This decline comes at a time when the economy has been growing for nearly two years, turning around declines in broadcast, magazine and online advertising. Mutter closes: “Clearly, newspapers need new ideas. They need to develop a broad array of targeted content and advertising solutions to serve diverse audiences across the web, mobile and social media.”

Actually, newspapers don’t need new ideas. They need to unshackle themselves from their old advertising-and-circulation model and start serious pursuit of the dozens of ideas already presented for developing new revenue sources. Here are some ideas (not all mine and not new here, but not yet in wide use, at least by newspaper companies): (more…)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

If you ever lost a friend who wasn’t fully appreciated, read Jim Naughton’s A Death Notice for Obituaries? Or read it if you’ve ever read an obituary for someone you didn’t know, but after reading the obit wished you had (like I wish I had known Tom O’Meara). Or read it if you ever were touched by a well-crafted obituary of someone you knew.

Obituaries are important news stories. As Jim Sheeler, author of Obit, tweeted of Naughton’s piece: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »