Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Inquirer: Old White Guys Are Dying!

ACCORDING TO TODAY'S Philadelphia Inquirer, the major recent local deaths have all been old white dudes. Of the five obituaries they ran, all are white men, and none was younger than 78.

Is there anything wrong with that?

The Daily News today has three obits - a white woman (77), a white man (59) and an African-American man (72).

Should the obituaries reflect the readership? Should diversity be enforced?

A little perspective: the New York Times began running gay wedding announcements in 2002. Some other publications followed suit. Some didn't. To this day, the practice remains controversial to some readers.

How should media outlets decide who gets covered in the news?


Don Hoegg said...

If I'm not mistaken, it's the family who's responsible for submitting the obituary. Maybe those were the only ones sent in?

Geo said...

There are paid death notices (labeled "funeral announcements" in the Inquirer). Similar to classified ads, those announcements are handled by sales staff who usually deal with funeral homes (thus the name of the funeral home in bold print at the end of each death notice).

The newspaper also writes a handful of obituaries every day, and those are prepared by the papers' editorial staff. The Inquirer has one staff writer dedicated to obituary beat.

- George
(the teacher who wants you to understand how the biz works)

Written Light Photos said...

Is this a consistent trend with the Philadelphia Inquirer's obituary? If, repeatedly, the majority of deaths reported are older white people, perhaps there is cause to assume some sort of a bias.

But if it's just one day... I don't think that's anything to get up in arms about.

Dan Housch said...

I think that for that day, those five old white guys were the most interesting deaths. One was a WWII POW, another an electrical engineer for GE. I think the Inquirer just felt those were the most interesting to all readers for that given day. And says little about the diversity issue as a whole.

fatia said...

As the journalists job to provide infpo to the public, of course i think they should be diverse in their obituaries section...If you dont mind though i would like to play the devbil's advocate: maybe they thought the obituary for the white males seemed more interesting than probably an Asians history to the U.S. or a Black Man's life lost due to inner-city violence....Just a thought

Aleks Molnar said...

I agree with Dan and Written Light Photos. If the most interesting people who died that day were these five old white men, so be it. As tactless as it sounds, the entertainment factor in the obituaries plays a part in who's dead and mentioned in the paper.

Also, if it's not a reoccurring theme in the paper, there's no reason to make a big deal about it.

Geo said...

That's your next assignment: look for the trends in the media.

Are they providing a "marketplace of ideas" or are the media pigeonholing their audience?

- George
(the teacher who wants you to think big picture)

KearnDaddy said...

Every major media company wants viewers, readers, and people paying to see their production, they have to let the society be the boss and they must work with and listen to them. Whatever they're responding best to is what people want to see and thus obviously should be accessible to those people through their media outlets. The popular topic wins out always and thus plays an intricate role in forming the society that we currently live in. This is not an issue of race or diversity, this is one amongst the people and what they want to see in their information. If these white males was what makes business then so be it, it's what will be published. It's that simple.

Andrew Kearney

Dannaly Sam said...

If the newspapers were to publish obituaries of white men who weren't younger than 78 on a daily basis, then that'd be a problem. If this was only one-day where the obituaries of these men, who each had very diverse backgrounds and could spark the attention of many people, then I don't think that there's anything wrong with putting those five obituaries in the paper. I do however think that the obituaries should reflect the readers' interest. More readers will want to read certain obituaries if they can better relate to it. Otherwise, those obituaries will probably be skipped over because it doesn't mean anything to the readers.

Geo said...

Thursday's obits: the local obits with pictures are three white dudes (57, 73 and 82). There is a wire story obit for Mary Travers from the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. There are two obits without pictures - one is an old white guy (82). The other is likely an African-American teen - a 14 year old from Brewerytown.

- George
(your teacher who thinks there is a bad pattern here)

Anonymous said...

I think it should mandatory that papers should publish obituaries for everyone so the public has a right to know about deaths that have occurred, except in the cases of tragic accidents andmurders so family members and friends aren't traumatized by reading about it.

William Carlson said...

They really need to add racial quotas to obituary writing. I'm kidding. That would be pathetic. It is the staff writer's responsibility to take a realistic cross section of notable deaths. If no high profile white people died then I would be more than happy to read about distinguished African-Americans who passed away. If I were the manager I'd examine how he is selecting who to write about and see if it was an issue of bias or simply a reflection of fact.I'd also have to see what the previous obituaries were like, and keep an eye on the trend afterward. If this continues, fire his ass and get someone who has a more balanced view of the community.

Wafai Dias said...

Yes, obituaries should reflect readership. Philadelphia is a very diverse city. That said the paper should have white, black, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and other ethnicity's in their obituaries.

NewsNut said...

In a perfect world, the media would be able and willing to provide information regarding all groups of society equally without cherry picking to appease specific societal hang ups. But we don't live in that world. We live in this one.
Shara Dae Howard

Geo said...

That other world sounds pretty cool.

- George
(the teacher who has been watching the Inquirer's obits and really thinks there is an ugly trend)