Learning from obituaries

Ann McIver passed away on Tuesday. Her obituary takes up nearly a column in today’s News & Record.

Bettye McKee died on Monday. Her obituary is almost as long.

I’ve lived in Greensboro for 27 years, and I have never heard of either woman. That troubles me because the paper — for many years under my watch — should have written about them. Perhaps it did write in the years before I moved to Greensboro in 1985. I hope so. McIver was president of the Junior League and was active in helping the city understand the importance of the civil rights movement. McKee was a teacher, most recently at Allen Jay Middle.

Still, it is not just these two women or just today. Almost every day the News & Record — and presumably every newspaper — has obituaries of people that their families think enough of to spend the money to write inches and inches of tribute. They are people who made a mark on the world and this community in their own special way. They have stories. They should be in the paper before their obituaries.

Many newspapers are realizing the importance of more intensely local content. But with staffs being cut, there are fewer opportunities to get the stories of interesting people before the eyes of readers. It is an opportunity that I wish I had seized when I had the power to make it happen. It’s still an opportunity for papers.

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