Dead man writing

The news of President Ford’s death has caused some bloggers to remember this video, where SNL comedian Dana Carvey, acting as Tom Brokaw, pre-records the announcement of Ford’s death — in 1996. It’s a funny video, given the fact that it is now common practice for news outlets to have completed obituaries on hand before a public figure passes on.

The practice, though common, is a vulturous tactic that places the need to be first over respect for the living. You just can’t get much worse than writing about the living as though they were dead, right?


This morning, I read the long, somewhat interesting obituary of President Ford in the Washington Post. At the end of the obit is the following notation:

J.Y. Smith, a former obituary editor of The Washington Post, died in January.

I quickly scroll back up to the byline:

By J.Y. Smith and Lou Cannon
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 27, 2006; Page A01

Yep. A dead man wrote the obituary. This takes “embedded reporting” to an entirely new level. Not since Lazarus have we had someone more qualified to write on the subject. I just a bit surprised that we didn’t get a report on the president from the other side…