High cost of death at Gannett; 'my mom was a gift..." AND hope for younger journalists

Dateline: Wed 28 Jan 2009

Friend and sister journalist Pat Pickett, a former editor of Indianapolis Woman magazine and a longtime public relations person with Coles Marketing Communications in Indianapolis, shared a story back in December that bears repeating in the New Year.

First, this is about Pat's mother, the late Jean Snyder of Noblesville, who died Oct. 13 at age 84 of cancer. "She was at home that last week," wrote Pat, "and I was with her until the end."

Pat adored her mother; Jean was a character, as well as charming, spunky and beautiful. As Pat noted in a tribute, her mother was a person of modest means, but she was always glamorous and fully engaged in life.

The reason Pat wrote on Dec. 18 was to share her concerns for Joe Fahy, a former reporter at the Indianapolis Star, who also died of cancer.

"Reading Joe's saga brought all that back," wrote Pat, speaking of her mother's struggle. "My thoughts are with his family. It's an ugly ugly illness. Hence my writing today ... finally."

Then Pat revealed what she called "Gannett's LOWEST low...what they were going to charge me to submit a 582-word obituary with a photo: $2200. Seriously. The funeral home had warned me $500 - $700 was standard, and i had planned for that. Obviously, those folks weren't journalists with the penchant for detail and color ... :) Nonetheless, I knew my mom might possibly come back and 'boot me in the fanny' if I wrote that kind of check to Gannett ... so I posted the obit on my Facebook page."

(For those not familiar with word counts, 582 words is not quite two pages on standard-size paper, double-spaced. NOT a huge gob of words, but a decent sendoff.

Next, as Pat says, a funny thing happened: a reporter from the Associated Press saw the tribute on Facebook. That young woman picked the story up, and Jean Snyder's obit ended up, says Pat, "running ACROSS the country and even on CNN.com as part of a piece on 'living and dying in tough economic times.'"

The young AP reporter attended the memorial service Pat and her family held in Noblesville. Pat's message focused, in part, on her mother's frugality. Pat noted that her mother was not wealthy. Thus, it was appropriate to celebrate her mother's life and death, but not by spending a lot of money, in Pat's view.

Another reporter also attended and took photos at the tribute. Those were turned those into a slide show that ran with the AP vido.

Wrote Pat, "...my mom would have really dug that! And, coming full circle, it gave me a little hope for this younger breed of journalists that the profession might possibly NOT be going to hell in a hand basket. This reporter is learning lots of other stuff -- audio recording and she just did some videography training as well -- but at the core, she's a good reporter. And a nice person."

So is the tribute. Perhaps you will be reading more of these on Facebook and other avenues as daily journalism -- at least the kind dreamed up by Gannett --- bites the dust.

Here's the story, free:

http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_national/saying_goodbye/

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