When obituaries go wrong: Why they need to come from funeral homes

Darrell Todd Maurina
6 min readAug 15, 2022

Nearly all obituaries I run at the Pulaski County Daily News come from funeral homes. There are reasons for that, and a recent obituary in The Florida Times-Union in which an adult son attacked his father for being, among other things, “narcissistic” and an “abusive alcoholic” whose death proves that “evil does eventually die” is an example of why obituaries need to come from funeral homes, not family members.

Here’s the notorious obituary: https://www.jacksonville.com/obituaries/pfla0245589?fbclid=IwAR2kZghNj3IOsT1CA7NAo7o1iYCyw2xk9eFFYJtlUGrYEvIfgoqAGsk1qkg

Here’s an article from The Florida Times-Union on their obituary: https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/local/2022/07/06/jacksonville-man-free-after-writing-abusive-fathers-unflattering-obit/7810066001/

The number of exceptions I’ve made could be counted on one hand in the last two dozen years while working at four different newspapers in three states where I had a role in the obituary process. At a number of other newspapers where I worked, I had nothing to do with the obituaries, either because they were larger papers where reporters didn’t handle obituaries or smaller papers where somebody else did that job. It used to be standard practice at small dailies that the police reporter dealt with obits because it was a good way to be aware of deaths of unusually young people to see if we’d missed a serious crime, and while most newspapers today don’t have enough staff to do that sort of digging, it’s why I’ve had more involvement than most reporters with obits. Much of my career has involved covering the “cops and courts” beat, and obituaries used to be a standard part of that beat.

It’s not unusual to have family members contact me asking what they need to do to have their obituary appear. My usual answer to local people is to ask which funeral home is handling the arrangements, to express my condolences for their loss, and to explain that helping to write and distribute an obituary is part of the services for which they are paying the funeral director. If the funeral home is non-local and therefore doesn’t routinely send me obituaries, I contact the funeral home to get it. In some cases, an out-of-town funeral home will contact me to get an obituary run for someone who used to…

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