A former colleague of mine died unexpectedly last week in Fort Wayne. He was a great guy and I remember him fondly. If I were still in Indiana, of course I would have attended his funeral and most likely a newspaper wake, where we would gather at a bar somewhere and tell stories about him.
But I wasn’t, so I made do with reading the online guestbook at Legacy.com linked to his obit on the paper’s website.
I considered leaving an entry and decided not to, but in poking around, I came across this disclaimer near the “sign this guest book” button: Entries are free and are posted after being reviewed for appropriate content.
My first thought was, spambots have probably infested Legacy, but the NYT informs me no, it’s worse than that:
Dissing the dead, as these screeners call it, has become a costly and complicated problem for Legacy and other Web sites where people gather to mourn online. Legacy, which is now eight years old, carries a death notice or obituary for virtually all the roughly 2.4 million people who die each year, but few foresaw how nasty some of the postings to its guest books would be.
Some of the snubs are blunt. “Everyone gets their due,�? a former client writes of an embezzling accountant. Or, “I sincerely hope the Lord has more mercy on him than he had on me during my years reporting to him at the Welfare Department.�?
Others are subtler: “She never took the time to meet me, but I understand she was a wonderful grandmother to her other grandchildren.�?
“Reading the obit, he sounds like he was a great father,�? says another, which is signed, “His son Peter.�?
The company employs 45 screeners to read the entries before they’re posted to the online guest books.
Amazing. A great Sunday read.
By the way, in e-mailing the news about my ex-colleague, Joe Sheibley, some people shared their own stories. Here’s one of the best:
I remember the time Ed Treon set his desk on fire with his loose match habits while lighting up his pipe. Joe calmly looked up from blue-penciling copy to say: “Ed, your desk is on fire” and then went back to editing.
You see why he was management material.