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Opinion: Change in obituary policy begins next week

Starting with our Oct. 18 issue, the Star Gazette will join the hundreds of other weekly newspapers across the country in charging for obituaries.

While the charge will be minimal (we will still publish death notices for free), this will eliminate us from the burden of deciding for the family what we will print and what we will not print.

As anyone knows who has written an obituary, they're incredibly important. They're often written by grieving family members, and they are, in many cases, the only written history of a person's life.

If you mix that with the formal style of a newspaper, you often times get a combustible combination.

Here's what has been happening: Many of our competitors are charging for obituaries. Our competitors thus allow the family members to include any information they deem important. If you're buying the space, you can do with it as you please.

Since we weren't charging for the space, we wanted to have control of the information that appeared. We applied consistent editorial standards to the obituaries. We may have removed information the family included, like a favorite vacation destination or the name of a family pet. In some cases, that decision wasn't very popular.

Taking a phone call from a grieving family member, and trying to explain why we removed certain information out of the obituary, hasn't been easy.

Jane Lightbourn, who has admirably handled our obituaries here for decades, has fielded more than her fair share of concerns from family members, too. We've always understood their frustration, but we've also believed firmly in applying those consistent standards.

By charging for obituaries, family members will get to include pretty much whatever they want, and we think that $50 is a pretty small price to pay for that.

What will we be charging? It's $25 for the first 150 words. After that, it's 20 cents per word.

This is a fraction of the price charged by the metro dailies, where they charge up to $9.95 per line.


• As you may have seen on our Business page, Peggy Tupper has returned to the Star Gazette as an advertising representative. She worked here from 1996 until 2006 and came back when Susie Givens resigned and went back into teaching.

• I wrote a story recently on the 50th anniversary of DCA Title (formerly known as Dakota County Abstract and Title). As part of the interview, I heard Richard and David Welshons talk about some of their loyal employees, including at least three who put in more than 40 years at the company.

Star Gazette writer Jane Lightbourn isn't far behind that! Jane started work at the Mississippi Valley Star in 1972 and has been with us now for 35 years. Someday, when I have eight hours to kill, I'd like to count up how many co-workers Jane has had on the news side. The list would be long and colorful, to say the least.

Jane may not realize it, but she's had a big impact on the lives of dozens of young reporters that have come and gone here over the years.