Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Who Would Lie About an Obituary?

IF SOMEONE CALLS in an obituary to a newspaper, hoping to get a notice about their loved one printed in the paper, what is the responsibility of the newspaper? Should the newspaper fact-check that information, or assume that no one would joke about such a story?

Turns out a guy in Brookeville, PA didn't want to get fired from his job after he took time off, supposedly mourning the death of his mother. To support his story, he contacted the local paper and asked for an obituary.

The newspaper could not confirm the details with the funeral home at deadline, so they ran the story.

The next day, relatives called to deny the story. Then, the supposedly deceased woman stopped by the office.

Did the journalists err in this situation?

(By the way, the dude who submitted the false obituary was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. And the image above is of the 80s death metal band, Obituary.)


Kaylin Quinn said...

The journalists should have fact checked their work no matter the amount of seriousness that is related to the information. A journalist should always make their deadline, but the truth is the first principle of journalism for a reason. We have a duty to provide the truth to the people. If we do not fact check every little detail, we will lose the trust of our readers if the information is not solid.

Shauna Bannan said...

Journalism's first obligation is to the truth. It's the first principle of journalism. That being said, the journalists should not have ran the story without fact checking the details first. I mean, sure, what kind of person would lie about an obituary? Though, there are crazy people out there, clearly. Running a story without fact checking is bad for the companies (by companies I mean the one journalists work for) and for society: the company will lose readers for providing false information, and citizens will be left with the wrong idea about a situation (and I think someone's death is a pretty serious example). Bad call, overall.

Scott Samuel David Weiss said...

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated," excalimed the late Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain). The first obligation of a journalist is to the non-bogus information. Please do not give a "canna hera " on someone who is actually breathing air since one might not be heard breathing, but might have a light pulse.
-Scott Samuel David Weiss
Freshman Journalism Major, Temple Class of 2015
12/15/2011, 10:19AM

astuhl10 said...

The journalists without a question erred in this situation. Facts must always be checked, you cannot just take someone's word, especially when it comes to publishing the death of a family member. Just because the guy wanted "time off" from work, does not mean he should create an elaborate excuse such as a death. That's so wrong on so many levels.

Sakinah Muhammad said...

I believe that in this situation the journalist did err but it was not his intention. Everyone makes mistakes in life and this is one that the journalist obviously had little control over. When you analyze the situation what would you have done in the journalist’s position? Would you have risked not printing an obituary of someone’s dead family member or made the same error that the journalist made and been questioned about your writings? Who would think that someone is so desperate to get away from their job that they would call a newspaper to run the obituary. At the end of the day I put all fault in the man who lied to the journalist and about the death.