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Columbia Missourian

FROM THE NEWSROOM: What are the different kinds of obituaries?

By Lizzie Johnson
October 15, 2013 | 9:23 p.m. CDT

Welcome to From the Newsroom, the section dedicated to answering your questions about the Missourian. Our goal is to be transparent about our practices and processes and to invite our readers behind the scenes of what we do. Suggest topics you’d like to see explained by contacting Joy Mayer at or 882-8182.

*This story has been updated to include a fourth way to publish obituaries.


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At the Columbia Missourian, there are *four ways to publish obituaries: Missourian life stories, Missourian obituaries, family obituaries and paid advertisements. Find a list of all of them here.

Missourian life stories

At the Missourian, we believe that every person has a story to tell. We also believe that after people die, their lives and their stories deserve to be celebrated. Executive editor Tom Warhover explains in this column, "In capturing that bright piece of one person, (we) believe we illuminate a part of what's possible in all of us."

For decades, the Missourian has achieved this by writing life stories. Reporters typically use information from a funeral home as a starting point. Additional interviews are done with family and friends to flesh out the story and provide detail. If loved ones are uncomfortable or decline to give an interview, reporters do not push. Often, however, loved ones are grateful for the opportunity to share memories.

For example, Cecil Warren's life story is told in a narrative form and is slightly different than his family obituary. The life story begins:

Cecil Warren Sr. of Columbia died Thursday Oct. 10, 2013. He was 83.

Mr. Warren was born Jan. 30, 1930, in Muskogee, Okla., to Lawrence and Kathryn Smith Warren. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, his son Cecil Warren Jr. said.

"He was a hardworking man who kept the family together," said another son, Stephan Hester.

Missourian obituaries

This type represents a standard newspaper-style obituary. These obituaries are fairly short, with basic biographical information, a listing of survivors and times and places of services. They are edited for length and the type of information included. If family members are reachable and choose to have a life story written, usually a Missourian obituary will not be written.

Family obituaries

The family obituary version is the one that comes from a funeral home, Warhover explains. The family will usually fill out a form from the funeral home with basic biographical facts or write a longer narrative.

Family obituaries are largely unedited. Missourian editors will not change the obituary to conform to newspaper conventions, but they might fix grammatical or spelling errors.

For example, Cecil Warren Sr. died this week. His family obituary reads:

"Cecil Warren Sr., of Columbia transitioned to glory on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at his home. Funeral services will be held Wednesday October 16, 2013 at 11 am at Latter House Kingdom Ministries in Columbia,  A visitation will be held from 10-11 am at the church."

You will see links to both Missourian life stories and family obituaries side by side on the Missourian's online list of obituaries.

Paid advertisements

The Missourian runs only staff-written obituaries in our print edition. Readers are welcome, however, to buy advertising space to run a family-written obit in print. For rates, call the advertising department at 882-5714.

Supervising editor is Joy Mayer