The Difference Between Paid Obituaries, Death Notices, and Newspaper Obits
The public is often confused about how a death may be reported (if at all) in the media. A news reporter may write an obituary, a funeral home may post a death notice, or a family may pay to have a submitted obituary run in the paper.
The book Life on the Death Beat breaks it down into: reporter-written obituaries, family-placed obituaries, death notices, memorial notices, public service listings, and news stories.
If your local newspaper has a section along the lines of "Joe Smith, 87, Portland," that's what's commonly referred to as public service listing. It's free, and usually appears as a result of public records, or information obtained from funeral homes. These may be found under the header of Death Notices. But death notices may also be the term a newspaper uses for its classified advertisements in which families pay a set fee to have the wording they choose appear in the classifieds section of the newspaper. Family members may also choose to purchase ad space for memorial notices, either immediately after the death or in the years following, perhaps as an anniversary-of-death remembrance. These are more like eulogies and may include spiritual poems, messages addressed to the decedent, or other personal elements or even illustrations.
There are also family-placed obituaries, which are prepared by the family or funeral home. Many newspapers used to run these for free, but now it's more common to charge a fee. However, keep in mind that the content is usually subject to being edited by newspaper staff.
Reporter-written obituaries are treated as news stories, and reported in an objective manner, often using the information provided by the family and maybe a few quotes from survivors of the deceased. They are free, and the family may request that certain information may be included or excluded, but there is no guarantee. But in the case of a public or tragic death, the person who died may end up in a broader news story that would likely not include funeral information or much in the way of survivors or other elements of a typical obituary.
Index of obituary templates