On the Beat: Writing Obituaries

Course Overview

On the Beat: Writing Obituaries
Self-Directed Course
Time Estimate:
This course takes about an hour to complete.

About Self-Directed Courses

In a self-directed course, you can start and stop whenever you like, progressing entirely at your own pace and going back as many times as you want to review the material.

Because obituaries are the lasting record of a person’s life, it’s vital that you get the story right. This course will provide you with the tools you need to write engaging, informative and accurate obituaries.

You’ll learn to dig for the details that give your audience a richer portrait of a person’s life, to verify facts and to go beyond the "obitspeak" and formula writing that fills so many obituaries. You’ll also have access to a library of online resources for researching and writing obituaries. Along the way, you’ll gain a fresh appreciation for the craft of writing obits and the value they hold as historical documents for families, genealogists and others.

What Will I Learn:

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Tell a life story as succinctly as possible
  • Know how to find information on a subject in which the expert (the deceased) is unavailable
  • Appreciate the importance of the job
  • Identify the essential components of an obituary
  • Define the desirable components of an obituary
  • Find creativity in the assignment
Who should take this course:

Journalists of all skill levels who write obituaries. If you're new to the beat, you'll get the tools you need to get started. If you're a veteran obit writer, you'll discover new approaches and ways to re-energize your writing.

Course Instructor:

Alana Baranick

Alana Baranick is the winner of the 2005 ASNE (American Society of News Editors) Award for Distinguished Writing in the obituary category, founder of ObitsOhio.com, chief author of “Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers” and director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers.

Technical Requirements:

This course contains audio, so please make sure you have your speakers or headphones on.

For this course you will need to have at least version 7.0 of the Flash plugin installed. For the best experience, we suggest that:

  • PC users use Internet Explorer or Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox
  • Mac users use Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox or Safari
  • You set your monitor resolution to 1024 x 768 or higher
  • You use a high-speed connection