Today’s Obituaries (and New Death Notice Policy)

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Today’s obituaries appear below.

A generation ago, there were two types of funeral announcements—an obituary, written by reporters to present newsworthy information of residents’ passings, and paid “death notices,” placed by funeral directors.

When journalists were in charge of obituaries, they were written to conform to journalism conventions governing style and abbreviations, satisfy curiosity and omit subjective hyperbole. On the other hand, families could say what they wished, and paid for the privilege to do so, in paid placements. During the intervening time, newspapers largely eliminated the news-style announcements and accepted only paid notices. This caused anxiety in some circles.

“The death of a citizen in a newspaper’s circulation area is not only news, it’s important news,” Judith Shepherd wrote in a 1999 American Journalism Review article, quoting Nathaniel Blumberg, a retired dean of the University of Montana journalism school. Newspapers, Blumberg said, should not be putting the interests of their shareholders “above the interests of the subscribers.”

Paid notices are now the norm and mark the end of the cliché that residents can count on being in the news at least twice—at birth and upon death. Today, privacy rights have ended birth notices and declining newspaper fortunes have ended free obituaries for the average person. Celebrities still get their shares of news.

For the last five years, WHAV has taken a hybrid approach. That is, the radio station never charged for obituaries, but also adapted them somewhat to meet news requirements. Today, more people learn of the passing of friends and neighbors from WHAV’s online site and related social media postings than from any other source.

Thanks to the sea change in media and a misunderstanding, however, bereaved survivors expect obituaries will say exactly what they want and that prompts indignant calls to the radio station even though the announcements appeared free. Rewriting notices from funeral directors and calmly handling the weekly deluge of protest calls costs WHAV thousands of dollars annually in staff time. Most would argue that money is better spent on covering crime, education, the opioid epidemic and other issues.

As such, WHAV is revising its obituary policy with one that is sensitive to the needs of families who cannot afford to add to funeral expenses. Except in the case of public figures, WHAV will publish on its website and social media brief listings of locals who died, their ages and occupations and when calling hours and funeral services are schedule. However, for a modest fee, funeral directors may buy enhanced listings as well as brief on-air notices. Together, families can be assured the 200,000 or so WHAV listeners and readers will receive the important information.

Those with questions or concerns, may call WHAV at 978-374-1900 or email [email protected].

Obituaries

Gerald B. Gifford, 69, of Methuen and formerly of Haverhill, died Wednesday, Jan. 9, at High Pointe Hospice, Haverhill. He was a printer for more than 35 years before receiving his Certified Nursing Assistant degree and working at Merrimack Valley Hospital for more than 14 years. Calling hours are Monday, Jan. 14, from 4-7 p.m., at Kevin B. Comeau Funeral Home, 486 Main St., Haverhill, with a memorial service Tuesday, at 11 a.m., at East Parish Meeting House, 150 Middle Road, Haverhill. Burial follows in Walnut Cemetery, Kenoza Street.

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Ronald W. J. Norton, 71, of Haverhill, died Friday, Jan. 11, at Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill. He was a Vietnam veteran and formerly employed by the former Stan Fran and Times Mirror cable companies. Calling hours are Tuesday, Jan. 15, from 4-7 p.m., at the Kevin B. Comeau Funeral Home, 486 Main St., Haverhill, with funeral services Wednesday morning at 10, in the funeral home, followed by burial in St. James Cemetery, Primrose Street.

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Paul L. Fanaras, 80, of Tyngsboro and formerly of Haverhill, died Thursday, Jan. 10, at his residence. A graveside service takes place Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m., at Linwood Cemetery, Haverhill. Arrangements are by H.L. Farmer & Sons Funeral Homes, Bradford – Haverhill.

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Joan Ferronetti, 87, of Haverhill died Wednesday, Jan. 9. at Penacook Place, Haverhill. The funeral is private with interment taking place at St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Haverhill. Arrangements are by H.L. Farmer and Sons Funeral Homes and Cremation Service, Haverhill and Bradford.

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Joan Elizabeth (Coffin) Ladd, 84, of Haverhill, died Wednesday, Jan. 9, in Newburyport. She worked at Western Electric and left to become a full-time artist. A memorial service takes place in the spring. Arrangements by Driscoll Funeral Home, Haverhill.

To submit an obituary or memorial notice, click here.