Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Giving life to the newly dead

As a regular reader of New York Times obituaries, I was keenly interested in director Vanessa Gould's Obit, a documentary about the journalists who write obituaries for the Times and the department in which they toil. The journalists you'll meet are smart, dedicated and thoughtful about their work. The key to the Times's approach: Obits are written for the Times only when they have news value. That could mean a subject accomplished something unusual, achieved fame, became notorious or was a person of demonstrable historical importance. Much of the commentary comes from Bruce Weber (shown above), who talks about his approach, his anxieties (fear of mistakes) and the pressures of writing on deadline. Equally important, Gould asks the Times's obit team to discuss how decisions are made about the amount of attention any noteworthy death receives. Will it appear on Page 1? Will it be referred to with a headline and capsule description on Page 1? Will it lead the obituary section or be placed in a secondary position? Interviews are enriched with clips and photos from the various lives under discussion. If you're an avid newspaper reader, you won't want to miss this informative and entertaining documentary -- and you'll come away with a good feeling for those who labor to bring eloquence and information to the passing parade of lives that helped define their times.

No comments: