Obituaries are, after all, news

Careful readers of the Spirit’s obituary section might notice a few listings that include only “a sister” or “two brothers” without providing names or other identifying information.

We wanted to explain our efforts to include such detail whenever possible.

Almost always, information about a person’s death comes to our newsroom from a funeral home. We work with leaders at local funeral homes as well as those out-of-state to give a family two ways to present information about their loved one’s death.

One is our free obituary, which is written as a news item. A second option is as a memorial, which is a paid ad. Family members can include any information they’d like and exclude any information they’d like. The memorial isn’t edited to conform with any Spirit format.

In recent weeks, funeral homes have submitted to the Spirit newsroom a number of obituaries that list the survivors by name but do not include where the survivors live. One family wanted first names only.

We clarified our policy and let funeral home officials know that when it comes to our free obituaries – along with everything that appears in our news columns – our first loyalty is to our readers.

News of someone’s death is, after all, news. It is less helpful to readers to know only that a survivor is “Lisa” and more helpful to know the survivor is “Lisa K. Dawes of Harpers Ferry.”

There are situations when a family has splintered and no one knows where a surviving offspring, sibling or other close relative is living. We will deal with such instances as they arise.

Robert Snyder


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