Sunday, April 25, 2010

on the art of the obit: esp for comm 40

The best obituaries illuminate the real drama that is ordinary life. They can be at once touching and insightful, providing the reader with a look at a life well-lived as well as giving readers a hint at what the community values.

Here are two recent ones from the San Francisco Chronicle, celebrating the lives of two former staffers. The first, on retired reporter Malcolm Glover, not only sheds light on the life of an old-school reporter whose first martini was expertly mixed by Cary Grant, but also opens a window on police beat reporting:

"He was the original cop reporter," said a longtime colleague, retired Chronicle and Examiner reporter Larry Hatfield. "If it was a story in any way involving cops he was wonderful, because he could get the cops anywhere to talk. He was a good reporter."

The key was that Mr. Glover had worked so long in the police beat that he knew everyone, from the police chief on down, from way back. But as much as that, it was his smooth style on the phone and in person that turned stories.

"Malcolm never let me down," said John Koopman, who edited him as morning metro editor at the Examiner. "When you needed something, he'd get that sly grin, that twinkle in his eye and say, 'Gimme five minutes.'

"Then he'd go away and five minutes later he's got the chief on the line."

The second, on 28-year-old Alicia Parlette, connects you with a woman you never knew, but may wish that you did. It starts like this:

Alicia Parlette, who turned her incurable cancer diagnosis at age 23 into a Chronicle series about her experience, died just before noon Thursday at UCSF Medical Center.

She was 28.

Ms. Parlette's 17-part series, "Alicia's Story," drew tens of thousands of followers, who read about her trips to the doctor's office, the therapist's couch, her relationships with family and friends, and her faith in God.

1 comment:

Samantha P said...

I really enjoyed reading the two obituaries. It really did show me how important obituaries are - I actually teared up reading the obituary of Alicia Parlette, especially when I read about her boyfriend giving her the ring that his mother and grandmother wore. Through reading the obituaries, I felt a personal connection to their life stories and how they impacted their communities.