Thursday, April 20, 2006

THE DEATH OF OBITS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES

What is the story with the New York Times? They have no respect for the dead.

I’ve been meaning to complain about this for weeks. They recently redesigned their website, I believe, to make it more user friendly…not. I hate people and companies who make changes for the sake of it. The former NY Times website was just fine.

The new design gives me a headache, and I am suspicious of what they are trying to hide. In the past I could easily find the Obit section, which was prominently displayed above the fold on links to the left of my computer screen -- everything was easy to read. Now the Times only gives homage to World News, United States, New York, Business, Technology, Sports, Science, Health, Education, Opinion. The Obits have been banished to a shady plot under the classified section.

I don’t want to have to scroll so far down every morning to see if I am still alive. If my name is not listed there, I figure I better get dressed and get to work. I am not alone. I talk to so many people who check the Obits first thing everyday before they read anything else. It is like taking your pulse.

Reading the Obits is a great way to start the day. You read about the lives of prominent people and quickly decide if it was all worth it. It sets your tone for the day. If I read about someone who died of cancer after spending his or her entire career in cancer research, I feel like someone spiked the punch and I don’t work so hard. If I read about a young person who died just after he or she wrote a successful Broadway musical, I kick myself for being totally useless and unproductive because I am 20 years older. And if I read about someone who was philanthropic but divorced several spouses, I feel like I don’t have to be so generous just as long as I stay married to my present husband.

I always wanted to be an Obits writer but I think I would cry every time a death was called in. I would be so busy yenta-ing about who, what, why, I would never meet the deadline.

I love reading Obits but I don’t wish death on anyone. It is so final, so mysterious, so scary. No wonder the Times really buried it once and for all.

3 comments:

golde said...

Lois, I didn't know we share this lifelong passion - although I read the hard copy, in bed, with my morning coffee. Reading the NYT obits on a daily basis extends the learning process exponentially. All of the extraordinary lives we never knew, and some real basgtards. The unsettling part is having known the person who died. I recently read the obit of the person who hired me for my first job, followed by the obit for my first boyfriend's father. I've learned of my favorite mystery writers' deaths, and also discovered new (to me)witers who otherwise would have been lost to me. I also read an obit for a Ukrainian WWII soldier who gave testimony at Nuremburg after witnessing the liquidation of my father's hometown, Dubno. All this and much more in a simple obit.

Whitney said...

Mom, you can bookmark the Obits page so that you don't have to hunt for it at all.

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/obituaries/index.html

Cindy said...

I agree with Lois; another sad part about these obits is reading about the death of someone that you "always meant to call". by the way, I am sure that many of you in the consumer electronics industry read about the passing and in a NY Times obit, of Hans Fantel, long-time columnist in consumer electronics - also a writer of Lois'. Citelli's, and my generation.