Julie Noal



We are listening

On Monday morning, I greeted the new work week at The Progress with a blinking light on my voice mail. For an editor — that is almost always bad news.

Typically, it is a subscriber who has a complaint — perhaps a name was omitted from a photo caption or a mistake was made in an article. Or maybe someone called the newsroom instead of our business office to tell us that they didn’t receive their newspaper.

While these issues are disheartening for me and my staff, we are appreciative of our readers who take the time to call us and let us know that a correction or clarification needs to be made. After all, we do want to “make it right.”

Many times, however, errors such as omitted names, misspellings, or incorrect information is what our newsroom receives from others for submission — teachers, coaches, organizations, and more. Everyone makes mistakes, so we have no problem fixing them as we are notified.

So back to that voice mail this morning.

A woman left a message — rather lengthy and detailed — about a concern she had with The Progress’ obituary page. This woman said she was a subscriber and loves receiving her Progress every day. But . . . she was calling because she was upset about how some obituaries state “ . . . he was the son of . . .”

The caller specifically stated the obituaries for young people who have passed away should not say “was” the son or daughter of — because it is disrespectful to the surviving family, especially the parents. The caller felt that instead of past tense, the obituaries of young persons should say “is” — to avoid further grief on the part of the deceased’s parents. She went on to say in her message, “That young person still is the son or daughter of his or her parents.”

I agree, and I understand her thought process on this particular point.

However, The Progress obituary policy is simply this — we publish what the funeral home submits to us for publication. Obituaries, for the most part, are written by the deceased’s family members when final arrangements are being made with the funeral home. The family approves what the funeral home is going to submit, and we take it from there. The Progress does very little with obituaries for one reason — the family is paying us to print them. They write them on their own, or assist their funeral director in doing so. The only thing we pay attention to is spelling and punctuation for the most part. Sometimes something is missing and we ask the funeral home if it was intentionally left out — a date of birth perhaps, or calling hours if it isn’t listed.

Otherwise, obituaries are printed “as is.”

I really wanted to point this out to the caller on today’s voice mail. I understood her point of view, and I wanted to thank her for her concern — but also explain our policy to her.

Unfortunately, the caller did not leave her name or contact number. So I have no way to return the call. Because she said she is a Progress reader, I am hoping she sees this column to obtain the answers she was looking for.

I am also hoping that our readers see that yes, we like to hear from you, and we do strive for accuracy. If you are reading your newspaper after our regular business hours and wish to call us, please do not hesitate to leave a voice mail message. But please leave your name and telephone number so that we can call you back. We may not agree with your opinion, or we may have an explanation for why we do what we do, or we may need to gather more information. We can’t do this without a name and telephone number.

We are listening.