Archived Sections, Commentary

What is in a policy?

Bob Hulteen

Despite the fact that I was the sports editor, as a “cub reporter” at the Mandan NEWS, my local town newspaper, I was given the assignment of writing some of the low-profile obituaries. It was the most difficult writing of my life.
How do you capture the life of a person you do not know, under significant time constraints, in a manner that both tells “the truth” and is acceptable to those who are grieving their recent loss? I rarely wrote these stories without the assistance of our circulation manager, because he found the task much less daunting. He simply decided not to worry what family members or even community members might think. He only wanted to tell a good story through the obit.
I still find such writing excruciating.

What do you think?

I want to invite readers into a discussion currently underway here at Metro Lutheran. The Editorial Committee, comprised of about six members of the Board of Directors, is in the process of setting an obituary policy that is clear and understandable for readers.
There is one certainty in writing such a policy; people are going to die. Good people. People who have lived faithful, godly lives. People who deserve recognition and remembrance.
There are other realities. A newspaper has finite space and its staff has finite time.
It has been this editor’s policy to provide obituaries in three instances … and three only. First, Gold Pen Award recipients and, second, former or current board members normally receive an obituary. These are high profile members of the Metro Lutheran family. Regular readers of Metro Lutheran recognize these individuals, more so even than denominational press in many instances.
Third, elected leaders of Lutheran church bodies, both locally and nationally, do receive some space to notify readers of other church bodies of their death.

A newspaper has finite space and its staff has finite time.

Do these parameters make sense to you, the readers? Would you agree with the three categories listed above? Would you suggest other categories?
And, if you want to add other categories, what part of Metro Lutheran would you discontinue so that there is time and space for these obituaries?
Please send your responses in writing to Metro Lutheran, ATTN: Jason Scherschligt, 122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 206, Minneapolis, MN 55404, or via email to

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