Obituary Page Still A Reason to Buy A Newspaper

When I was younger I would ask my father why he checked the obituary page in the NY Daily News each day.  His reply was that he always wanted to check to see if someone he grew up with and knew might have passed on.  Now that I’m growing older, I realize importance of  obituaries. The fact is,  they still provide a strong reason for purchasing a newspaper.

What gave me pause to think about this subject was the passing of my good friend and fellow parishioner Charlie Albano this week.

In my parish at St. Clement Church in Matawan, NJ, I serve as a bereavement minister. This entails conducting the actual prayer vigil service at the funeral home for the deceased, if a priest or deacon cannot be present. It does not involve bereavement counseling.  Due to this role, I find myself perusing the obituary pages in the Asbury Park Press each day, checking to see if anyone from the parish may have died.  I will be assisting our deacon in conducting the service for Charlie Albano this evening.  In reading his obituary, I realized that for many who knew him, like myself, his past career as a book-binder was probably something they learned for the first time reading the notice.

When you think of it, an obituary is one of the most important communications tools we have.  One can learn a great deal about the deceased through their obituary.  Even if you’ve known the individual for years, there is usually something revealed to you for the first time in the obituary notice. The printed form of the notice is something I believe cannot be duplicated through other social media platforms as effectively.

Not everyone can receive the notoriety of a New York Times obituary, but each one of our lives carries strong weight within our own communities.  When my father passed away almost four years ago, the brief obituary that was published in the Newark Star Ledger led to a larger story on my dad’s service in World War II.  We had mentioned that he fought on D-Day.  A reporter read the first obituary and called to learn more.  He wound up with a unique story that our family will treasure for years to come.

So as newspapers fight on for survival in this age of social media and a dearth of advertising, publishers should know that the obituary page remains a profitable endeavor for the industry.

Tom Cosentino

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