Obituary Claims May Soon Be Fact-Checked by Newspapers — “Touchy Subject”

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Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 7.44.46 PMTORONTO — U.S. newspaper chain Gannett Company and Canada’s PostMedia News said today that they will start requesting that writers of obituaries be more honest with their tribute writing.

“If Uncle Bob whacked puppies with his cane, please don’t say he adored puppies, kittens and writing poetry,” said PostMedia CEO Paul Godfrey.

“That’s all we’re asking here.”

“It’s a touchy subject but let’s be honest…not every person who passed on had a twinkle in their eye and a smile that could light up a room.”

“Tributes are wonderful things but we’re in the factual news business and if you believe obituaries a lot of people were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Postmedia and Gannett are not the first media to fact-check submitted obituaries.

The New York Times began the practice after a death announcement for a local small businessman was published in 2012 claiming that the deceased had won the Boston Marathon twice, written the lyrics to “Stairway to Heaven”, and took up knitting late in life to make warm socks for U.S. soldiers.

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The Times received letters pointing out that deceased was a nice, decent man who lived a quiet life but reportedly had done none of the things claimed in his obituary and intensely disliked “Stairway to Heaven.”

“We know it is a time of reflection and grieving,” said Gannett’s CEO Gracia Martore.

“But if Grandma spit tobacco juice everywhere why write that she was a vegan health-nut who did yoga every day and played 18 holes of golf the day before she passed away?”

“Maybe say something like ‘Grandma always aimed high?'”

Other media including the Sun chain of Canadian newspapers said they have no plans to start fact-checking death notices.

“We never edit anything in our newspapers actually. Haha,” said Toronto Sun evening Editor Tom Delaney.

“But yeah, it does seem like a lot of people invented the Internet.”

Sue Dunum
Reportering for The Lapine.

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