Aside from the front page, the single most-read page of the newspaper is the obituaries page. Readers care about obituaries because the people featured on the page were their friends and neighbors, former classmates, fellow church members, or people who played integral roles in the community.
Obituaries are vitally important because, quite simply, every obituary tells the story of someone’s life — who their parents were, who their children are . . . but, just as importantly, where they’ve been and what they’ve done. An obituary may be the only time that person’s name ever appears in the paper, and it is through that obituary that a lasting record of a person’s life is written.
Each obituary consists of only a few paragraphs. In newspeak, they’re measured in column inches. But, strung together, one after another in a single edition of the newspaper, and across multiple editions for weeks or years, they tell the story of our community — allowing us to remember the good times and reflect on the bad.
The purpose of a newspaper is to report the news, and obituaries are very much news. Because of this, the Independent Herald does not — never has, and never will — charge families or the attending funeral home to publish obituaries.
Maureen Boyle, journalism director at Stonehill College, has noted that “most free obituaries” have ended at newspapers in America; having an obituary published in a larger newspaper can cost hundreds of dollars. Obit-mag.com noted recently that obituaries are “no longer considered a public service.”
We believe they’re just that, and more. They’re the stories of our community.