Public Editor

July 21, 2014

Never assume anything about obituaries

The obituaries are among the most avidly-read items in any newspaper. But they’re also intensely personal to the families and loved ones who place them.

I field a lot of questions about the obituaries that run in the paper and on KansasCity.com.

One of the most common queries is whether one has been published or not. Today, answering that question is easier than ever, as there’s a searchable widget under the”Obituaries” menu on KansasCity.com at the top of the page. You can also go directly to a more robust obits landing page here to see recent entries as well as featured notices about celebrities.

But remember: Obituaries are essentially paid advertising. The Star gives six lines free to the survivors of deceased area residents, and they may pay to run as much more as they wish. (That’s as long as it remains within The Star’s publishing guidelines. Obituary writers may not libel others, for example.)

One caller today asked me why there was no obituary for a friend’s son, who died a couple weeks ago. Readers often have similar questions about the content of obituaries, such as why a person’s previous spouse may not have been mentioned, for example.

I’d always encourage readers to remember that there’s nothing more personal than how one grieves. And we can’t know the dynamics that exist in any family. I long ago quit second-guessing what loved ones choose to place in a paid obituary.

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