15 minutes ago on CNN they just ‘broke’ the news of Dudley Moore’s death. (I was watching what was happeneing in Israel when this happened).
After the commercial break, they showed a summary of his life with clips. Now Dudley Moore had been seriously ill for some time, so I am thinking CNN prepares these bits on ill or elderly celebrities so when they die, there will be a tape with clips handy. Or could they have just rushed it all to production?
I think when George Harrison died, a lot of the news channels had the same thing going.
Keeping obituaries in the can is a longtime journalistic practice. I remember a New York Times obit writer commenting that they have a large number prepared, and sometimes, if the subject refuses to kick off, they have to go back to the subject and gather more information to update the review.
How do the subjects feel about this? They’re actually happy to some degree. Death is inevitable, but to know that the Times will publish your obituary is something of a comfort.
I learned about this practice watching some TV show a long time ago. I think it was, like, Mary Tyler Moore, her character worked in a newsroom, and she, or someone, accidentally destroyed the pre-prepared obituary files and had to recreate them. Task: Write an obituary for a well-known people before any of them die.
Was the Queen Mum thing fairly recent? I can’t remember exactly when this happened, but at some point over the last few months there was a rumor going around my best friend’s office (she works for a big ol’ magazine) that the Q.M. had passed away. Neither of us could find anything on line or otherwise to back it up, and within a couple of hours it completely petered out as a rumor.
Memepool had links to a site that had obituaries already made for various celebrities (Brando, Mandela, etc…) but unfortunately the host rearranged their site. So to answer the OP, yes, they’ve got obits done well in advance.
It’s us poor nobodies that make the obit writers really work for their money though.
I remember it slightly differently, but then again I usually remember things incorrectly <g>. As I (dimly) recall, Mary was assigned to update the station’s pre-obituary files. Because of this assignment, she couldn’t do (something) with Rhoda, so Rhoda volunteered to help her with the assignment first. They ended up getting bored and tired, and started writing silly things in the files (the one I remember was for Raquel Welsh - “One thing’s certain, she didn’t drown”).
Then the oldest man in the city died, the station pulled out his files, and Ted ended up reading the jokes on-air. I remember Ted chastizing Mary afterwards - “Think how his mother must feel about this”.
Imagining the Dana Carvey impression makes this even funnier:
[SNL] Tom Brokaw: Alright, alright… [ graphic of Gerald Ford, “1913-1996” ] “Gerald Ford shot dead today, at age 83.” Voice of Producer: Uh… add the word “senseless”. Tom Brokaw: Alright. “Gerald Ford shot dead today, at the senseless age of 83.” Voice of Producer: Um… uh… Tom Brokaw: Alright, alright… “Gerald Ford shot senselessly dead, at the age of 83.” Voice of Producer: Good, good… Okay, now suicide. Tom Brokaw: What?! Voice of Producer: Just read it! Tom Brokaw: Alright. “Gerald Ford dead today, after jumping out of an office building, senselessly.” Voice of Producer: That’s a nice touch. Okay, moving on. Tom Brokaw: Okay. “Gerald Ford dead today, from an overdose of crack cocaine.” Voice of Producer: Good, good… Next. Tom Brokaw: Alright. [ graphic of Gerald Ford and a commuter plane ] “Stunning news from Michigan, as former President Gerald Ford was chopped into little bits by the propeller of a commuter plane.” Voice of Producer: Good. One take. Tom Brokaw: Alright, we got it? Voice of Producer: No. We’ve got “eaten by wolves”. Tom Brokaw: What? Now, come on! Voice of Producer: Just read it! Tom Brokaw: Gerald Ford isn’t gonna be eaten by wolves! Voice of Producer: Taft was. Tom Brokaw : Really? Taft? Voice of Producer : Uh… yeah. Tom Brokaw : Alright, alright… [ graphic of Ford surrounded by a pair of wolves ] “Tragedy today, as former President Gerald Ford was eaten by wolves. He was delicious.” Now… now, that’s just superfluous, you know? Voice of Producer : It’s a former President, Tom. What do you say - he’s not delicious?
It did happen to Bob Hope, because it was notable due to a congressman going on the floor of the House to announce it and then wax poetically about him. He, of course, was not dead. And I don’t think John Cleese was there to konk him on the head when he started to insist he was getting better, either.
I remember vaguely that some big London newspaper was caught totally off-guard by John Lennon’s death cause they had never done obits for any of the Beatles. Since media doesn’t know when someone is going to die, it’s a good idea to be prepared.
The media have been preparing for the Queen Mother to peg it for years. But she just kept stretching it out. Every couple of years they’d have to go back and update the last obituary.
It still doesn’t stop them getting caught out. Apparently one of the TV tribute programmes shown in the last week featured a number of famous worthies who had already died themselves giving tribute to the QM in the past-tense. Now that’s spooky.
I remember when Gorbachev was temporarily overthrown back in August 1991 NBC ran a canned obit for him, which seemed to be basically a 2 minute bio piece. It was pretty obvious it was canned because Tom Brokaw was the narrator and he was on vacation when the coup began.
Oh, and Chris Parnell does a far better Brokaw than Dana Carvey ever did…