Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Deadly Accurate

The obituary editor of the New York Times … do you yes, or do you no, want this on your resumé? How do you describe yourself at an otherwise jolly cocktail party? What sort of small talk do you make at church dinners?

Bill McDonald has what he calls an interesting job at the Times.

“This is probably one of the only newspaper editing jobs in the country in which you have to think like an actuary. So age, yes; health, yes; external risk factors, yes (a well-known mobster might get one earlier in the game).

“But we also have to be mindful of not writing the obit prematurely. I mean we don't necessarily want to write the advance obit while the subject is still in full flower. We'd rather write about them when their essential work — that which they'll be remembered for — is done. Otherwise the obit is likely to require a rewrite 10 years down the road. Why bother now?

“The risk, of course, is lightning, the proverbial bus, a chance encounter with a shark or sudden illness.

“But prominence is also a major consideration. We wouldn't necessarily wait for an ex-president of the United States to write his memoirs before assigning the ‘advance.’ We might jump on that one while he's in office, just in case.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Know what would be a neat obit thing?

''He was here, he made his own tracks in the snow, he's gone but his tracks shall remain''

Exit 318

February 23, 2009 10:21 PM  

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