COMMUNITY, Obituaries

EDITOR’S NOTE: Salem Reporter launches obituary service – easy to use, low cost

Not long ago, we asked readers what they thought about adding obituaries to Salem Reporter.

By a big margin, readers were clear: Add them.

So, this week, Salem Reporter provides its new obituary service.

Let me explain how this will work.

Obituary information typically comes from two sources – families and funeral services.

In days gone by, news organizations could take that basic information, add to it and produce a regular news story about the person who has passed.

We have created a system we think will still get out the information and provide relatives far more flexibility to tell the story of their loved one.

In our new “Obituaries” section, relatives can find a form to tell these stories. Who knows them better, after all? There is no limit to how long these can be (though we’d probably pause at publishing a book-length treatment.) That means families can not only write about where the loved one started life, but how they advanced, their careers, their jobs, their hobbies and their loves.

But we have gone one step beyond traditional obituaries. Normally, what you see in those published by news services is a single photo.

Not at Salem Reporter.

We’ve provided a way to share up to five photos in an obituary. That means a photo of Grandpa at his favorite fishing hole, or Aunt Mary with her chickens and more. Photos can tell so much more than words and capture people in a way that just isn’t possible with the written word.

Once the form is submitted (the fee is a flat $100), we’ll seek verification if the information is from the family. We want to be careful not to be gamed into printing false obituaries. We’ll trust our local funeral homes when they submit the information to us directly.

What then?

The obituary will be published in the obituary section. The entry will remain accessible and on our website around the clock and with no end date.

Depending on the volume, once or twice a week, we will produce in a story a summary of the recent obituaries. This will be then published like any other story. And when that story goes live on our website, the obituary summary will then appear on our Facebook and Twitter pages. In other words, we’ll help families share the obituary information four different ways.

We’ve alerted the local funeral services to this so they can work with families to produce Salem Reporter obituaries.

My recommendation is avoid writing some stilted account – name, rank and serial number as it were. Instead, I encourage people to relax and just tell us the story of your mother, father, sister, brother, uncle or partner. Tell the rest of us what you found special about this person.

We have provided obituary guidelines online to help and the submission form as well.

This is a new service, so we’ll be open to suggestions and alert to any unexpected issues.

But we hope Salem finds this the kind of service it wants – and that helps capture another way to share about the people who make Salem the community it is.

Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].

STORY TIP OR IDEA? Send an email to Salem Reporter’s news team: [email protected].

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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.