Navigation Links
Online obituaries are changing the way we publicly remember the dead and how newspapers cover deaths
Date:6/16/2009

The ways we deal with death are finding a new life online, according to research being published by a Kansas State University journalism professor and her colleague.

"You're accustomed to clipping an obituary from the newspaper and putting it in the family Bible, but with online obituary services you can e-mail them to anyone you know," said Bonnie Bressers, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at K-State.

She and Janice Hume at the University of Georgia, who is the principal researcher on the project, have studied the phenomenon of newspapers publishing obituaries online and what it means not only for mourners and the public memory of the dead but also the ethical implications for newspapers. They will present their work in August at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications conference in Boston.

Hume was a K-State journalism and mass communications faculty member from 1999-2001.

Hume and Bressers looked at obituaries in the largest circulation newspapers in each of nine geographic regions across the United States. All of these newspapers had a partnership with Legacy.com, an online obituary service. When readers click on a paid obituary from the newspaper's Web site, they're redirected to the Legacy site, which adds an online guestbook that allows visitors to post comments. The family can later e-mail the entire guestbook to other mourners.

The researchers found that although this capability has positive implications for a community of mourners, it poses a conundrum for newspapers. In part, this is because the Legacy pages recreate the look of the hosting newspaper.

"To the user who isn't savvy, he or she would assume it's still the newspaper's site," Bressers said. "In a hundred years, will readers distinguish the two? The ethical implications need to be considered."

Legacy vets comments for the subjective quality of appropriateness, which Bressers said makes it unlikely to read comments about a person that aren't a glowing -- and perhaps more accurate -- account of their character. At the same time, comments aren't edited for accuracy in the way a newspaper report would be.

"If I were a newspaper, I'd also be concerned that outside companies like this are making money providing the kind of public access people want," Bressers said. "Newspapers have long been the holders of public memory, remembering people and reflecting the values of the time. At one time, for example, an examination of newspaper obituaries would make it look like women and African-Americans didn't die. We see online obituaries opening up the possibility that more people won't be forgotten."

Bressers said that she and Hume also see how online obituaries are bringing mourners together in a way that would have been impossible before. Friends and family who wouldn't have been able to attend a funeral to sign a physical guest book can send their condolences from anywhere they have an Internet connection. The researchers found comments from friends and family members sharing stories -- often humorous ones -- that painted a clearer picture of what the deceased person was really like.

Bressers said they were struck by the remarkable connections not just between people who have died and their childhood friends and co-workers, but also between complete strangers. If the deceased was a veteran, strangers express gratitude for that person having served the country. Strangers who shared a medical condition with the deceased convey empathy with the family.

The messages that are perhaps more specific to online mourning are those speaking to the dead themselves. Hume and Bressers found such guestbook comments often make a request of the deceased, such as 'Say hi to Mom.'"

Although comments can be left anonymously, mourners can leave an e-mail address with the "contact me" button, allowing the grieving to connect outside of the guestbook.

"These obituaries go beyond what a reporter would write and what a family would pay for," Bressers said. "Something may be lost in families not getting cards in the mail, but what is lost is outsized by allowing more people to participate in an online guestbook. The implications for community-building are immense."


'/>"/>

Contact: Bonnie Bressers
bressers@k-state.edu
785-532-3956
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. New Online Home Health Service Launched in California to Expand Direct Patient Care Time While Lowering Costs
2. Free Ask a Doctor Online Services Can Save Lives with Both Expert and Novice Input
3. Online Store Offers Affordable Digital Hearing Aids For Baby Boomers
4. New Online Community Answers Hospital Questions about ARRA QHR Announces Launch of theQsphere.com
5. American Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation Promote Water Safety and Good Home Pool Maintenance With New Online Course
6. Cancer Related Educational Video Sharing and Interactive Community Launches Online
7. Medeguide Founder to Lead Online Healthcare Marketing Workshop at the Healthcare Travel Conference in Singapore
8. Doctors Can Chat Online While Job Searching
9. Elsevier launches online version of the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines
10. Online Banners Yield High Click-Through Rate For NAS Texas Healthcare Client
11. Cant Sleep? Try Online Therapy
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:8/18/2017)... ... 2017 , ... “Emotions are sacred, valid, honored, encouraged. This is the memo ... Generation Mindful. To help change the mindset of parents and educators from punitive to ... the Time-In Toolkit, which launched on Kickstarter 3 weeks ago and fully funded in ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... ... August 18, 2017 , ... Alcovit, a lime-flavored beverage that ... its marketing efforts with its product now available through Jet.com. , After 25 ... The effervescent powdered drink is designed to quickly detox the body thereby avoiding alcohol-induced ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... August 18, 2017 , ... “Our Mountains ... potent tale of a couple that grew stronger together through the faith they shared ... Faith Through Trials” is the creation of published author, Barbara J. Corcoran, a retired ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... , ... August 18, 2017 , ... “Beyond Our Imaginations: ... life. “Beyond Our Imaginations: The Infinite God” is the creation of published author, Mark ... the country. , Lawrence shares, “The problem with becoming a greater man of God ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... , ... August 18, 2017 , ... “Kingdom Mandate for ... the Kingdom. “Kingdom Mandate for Kingdom Builders” is the creation of published author, ... moved to Eastern Europe as a missionary in 1983. He spent three decades ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:8/7/2017)... 7, 2017 Zimmer Biomet Holdings, Inc. (NYSE and ... that its Board of Directors has approved the payment of ... of 2017. The cash ... about October 27, 2017 to stockholders of record as of ... of dividends are subject to approval of the Board of ...
(Date:8/7/2017)... Mich., Aug. 7, 2017  Diplomat Pharmacy, Inc. (NYSE: DPLO), ... the quarter ended June 30, 2017.  All comparisons, unless otherwise ... Second Quarter 2017 Highlights ... to $1,089 million, an increase of 3.5% ... Gross margin of 7.5% versus 7.6% ...
(Date:8/4/2017)... Md. , Aug. 4, 2017 The ... or shortly after a physician/patient consult has long been ... and was a notable focus of the largest meeting ... is according to healthcare market research firm Kalorama Information. ... care testing (POCT) offerings or related supplies and software ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: