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Bring Out Yer Dead

August 12, 2014

Dog Ear Consultants

aflac(Image via)

We know you hope readers dig into the magazine and turn right to your well-researched feature on the mastermind behind Benin’s nascent start-up scene. Or your impeccably crafted front-of-book section with its slick little graphics and smart-kid tone. Or even that awesome final-page photo that everyone on staff just loves loves loves.

But it’s no secret that many readers turn first to Class Notes to see what their classmates are up to. And frankly, to the obits, to see who might have died by checking out the items you’ve copied and pasted from emails and plopped on the page.

Listen, we’re not here to debate human nature. People like seeing who died. Perhaps we simply need another reminder that we’re not dead—that for whatever reason, we are still given the opportunity to draw breath so we do important things like ridding our DVRs of unwatched episodes of “The Good Wife.”

But back to your obits. So many of these “memorial sections” read like tombstones. Just sad listings of people and class years. No to be overdramatic, but these people lived, too. They ran corner stores and drove trains and fought bulls and built cities and held parties that people never wanted to leave. You should celebrate these things.

For a look at how this can be done well, check out the Remembrance Project from WBUR (Boston’s NPR station). A quick excerpt from the story of Herbert Brown:

He plugged his songs in New York and searched out audiences for his poetry — once trying to reach Maya Angelou on the phone. His hopes were so buoyant he might have floated away, an untethered force of nature, if his wife hadn’t held onto the string of his life for 65 years.


So take at least one or two of these people and shine a light on them. Tell their story. People are already headed there after class notes—give them something to dig into. Otherwise, they’re just gonna spend the night trying to catch up on “The Good Wife.”

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