Free obituaries are printed to journalistic standards
The Portage County Gazette runs obituaries at no charge, and even includes a photo to help other people realize the identity of the deceased, if a photo is available. The policy has been in place since The Gazette started in 1999, primarily to try to record every death of a Portage County resident or someone with Portage County ties, such as an immediate relative living here.
The Gazette doesn’t pick or chose what obituaries to run; staff members only try to publish every obituary they learn about pertaining to someone who maybe once lived here or was born here. Annually, The Gazette publishes more obituaries than any other publication in the area.
The late George Rogers, one of the founders of The Gazette and a former Stevens Point Journal editor and publisher, always supported free obituaries, within journalistic standards, saying a person should always be recorded in a newspaper as having lived, even though it only may record the death. He did so even when other newspapers began charging, saying the dead shouldn’t have to pay to know they’re dead.
Some family members complain that the obituaries don’t contain everything that they paid to have placed in other newspapers.
The Gazette publishes its obituaries based on objective journalistic standards. According to the dictionary definition, an obituary is brief notice of a person’s death, usually with a notice of service times, a short biographical account of the person’s life, a list of immediate survivors and a list of immediate family members who preceded the individual in death.
The published obituary may omit some activities the deceased may have participated in, such as “was a Green Bay Packer fan.” With large families, the names of grandchildren are usually omitted, but siblings are named because they share the same DNA as the deceased.
Some family members want to publish a eulogy instead of an obituary. A eulogy is a subjective speech that praises someone who has died and usually omits biographical information. The Gazette realizes that family members want to publish a eulogy, and people may do-+ so by taking out an ad, which many people have already done so their “obituary” is printed in The Gazette. Those ads can be placed on the obituary page.
But the primary purpose of the obituaries published in the news section is to record a person’s death with biographical information. Readers are asked to continue to inform us of a person’s death so we can track down the information.
A newspaper exists to inform the public of events. A person’s death is certainly an event, a major one to the family involved.
– Gene Kemmeter