They call it working in the morgue. It is the newspaper obituary desk that has editors checking in whenever someone famous checks out.

In the internet age, news consumers have become so accustomed to getting their information immediately – including obituaries – that news organisations are constantly pre-writing them to meet that demand. Many extended obits are on file, ready at a moment’s notice.

And it is not as though the only obits ready to go are about elderly newsmakers. It does not matter how old you are, a good obit editor is supposed to be prepared for anything.

In this week’s feature, Listening Post’s Nicholas Muirhead takes a look at the art of obituary writing, the dos and do nots of the craft.

"I find that if you do an obit in advance it's a guarantee of eternal life, and the people who go into our morgue, as we call it, never seem to die. We've had Nelson Mandela in there for ages, we've had Castro in there.

There are many, many people alive who've got their obits on file, and quite a lot of young ones, too. There's nothing wrong with doing that. In fact, it's a good idea to do it but I think it's bad form and bad taste to announce it."

Ann Wroe, Obituaries editor, The Economist


Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

Click here for more Listening Post.

Source: Al Jazeera