The Sun-Times published a pre-death obituary for Karen Lewis. What’s wrong with that? | Bleader

The Sun-Times published a pre-death obituary for Karen Lewis. What’s wrong with that?

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RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith

Everyone is so good when they're dead.

Well, nearly everyone. If you're not Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson or—right now—Harvey Weinstein, the nicest things ever to be said about you are likely to be said in your obituary.

Which is why I think the Sun-Times did Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis a favor when it mistakenly published her pre-written obit online last weekend, while she was making a good enough recovery from an October stroke to appreciate it.

The premature obit was taken down after a few minutes. Sun-Times editor Chris Fusco apologized for the error, as did columnist Neil Steinberg, whose byline was on the piece. Steinberg has written gorgeous memorial essays in the past and is clearly much better at managing work flow than most of us.

The only thing wrong with landing a Steinberg obit is that you have to be dead to get it. (No reason to think he'd be doing mine, but if you are, Neil, go right ahead.) 

Steinberg apparently opened his Lewis piece by announcing that "Karen Lewis was fearless." Why shouldn't she get a chance to see that, and all of the other terrific things he no doubt said about her? Obits all ought to be published while their subjects are alive enough to peruse them and pass them along. 

And if—not in Lewis's case, but in some other obituary—there might be something not so complimentary, why not get it out there while the subject can respond?

Why should someone else get the final word?

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