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Editor’s NotebookEditor's Notebook: 'Democracy dies in darkness ...'

Editor’s Notebook: ‘Democracy dies in darkness …’

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… and, apparently, celebrities do, too.

Let me explain.

Monday afternoon, while depositing my own recyclables, I found several stacks of otherwise untouched Washington Post print editions from Sunday and Monday in a recycling dumpster operated by one of our local governments.

(I can see why they might be dumping the unsold Sunday editions, but the Monday ones? Apparently they’d given up on trying to get anyone to plunk down cash for those, either, and just junked them as a pre-emptive strike.)


I am not above dumpster-diving, so I grabbed on copy of each. It’s been at least 5 years since I’ve perused a print edition of the Bezos Bulletin, and was curious how things were going as the descent from greatness continues.

Apparently some news was backed up trying to get in, at least based on the Oct. 3 edition, which in the obituary section gave over fully half the broadsheet page to the death pf pioneering, albeit not particularly local, singer Mable John.

Definitely worthy of an obit. Only problem? She had died Aug. 25 out in California, and her death was well-known at the time.

Five weeks to shoehorn in a celebrity obituary? Not an appreciation or some other piece that might suitably run weeks after the fact, mind you, but an actual obituary, the kind that is supposed to, if all goes right, run between the death and the burial.

Which reminds me of this story from waaaaaaaay back in the 1980s, when I toiled under the semi-legendary Tom Grubisich, earlier of Washington Post fame but then editing and partially owning the Reston Connection newspaper.

Apparently the Connection newsroom had missed the death of an important Restonian, only hearing about it a month or so later. Tom did what frankly seems the only logical response: He put together a full obituary, noting where the date of death usually would go that the person in question had died “recently.”

Teenage Scotty might have thought that was a tacky fudge and an affront to journalism ethics, such as they are, but gray-haired present-day Scotty sees it as a way to save face and get the information out to readers, albeit in a tardy manner.

ALSO ON DEATH PATROL: Also some years back, the publisher of our Middleburg Life monthly paper died, and The Washington Post did an obituary because she had been of some notoriety (in mostly a good way) out in Hunt Country.

Nice for them to do it, but there were several blatant errors. Not necessarily the fault of the Postie who cobbled the piece together, but mistakes nonetheless.

Thinking that the late, great Madelyn Marzani would have wanted the record set straight, I called up the obituary writer and expressed my appreciation for the article but asked that the oopsie-daisies got corrected.

The weary tone of his voice in response was of the “sorry, but that’s not gonna happen” inflexion that I, myself, have used on occasion.

And it didn’t.

  • Scott McCaffrey
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