Letting the Dead Bury Their Dead


It's common practice for obits and "appreciations" of the famous to be written well before the subjects actually die. That makes good deadline sense, but it can lead to some macabre situations. One turns up in today's New York Times, where the front-page obit for Bob Hope carries the byline of the paper's one-time film critic, Vincent Canby. Canby died three years ago.

Joe Lelyveld, Times interim executive editor, told the New York Post that this isn't the first time a writer has "predeceased the subject." Canby "wrote the piece a few years ago," said Lelyveld, "and not much has happened in Bob Hope's life since."


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  1. This is a knee-jerk reaction, and it’s not the first time the allusion has been made on this blog, but I can’t resist. Tom Brokaw: “Gerald Ford devoured by wolves…”

  2. Unless the Times posted an editor’s note, I think it’s a little dishonest to run an obit written by a guy who’s been dead for three years. Guess that would be asking too much.

  3. a short graf citing the factual details of hope’s death appears above canby’s byline, so that the paper doesn’t appear to be attributing that knowledge to the deceased writer. i didn’t see an editor’s note in the print edition.

  4. I noticed that. And there was no dateline or date used like the NYT does, so OK, better than nothing. Still not all-the-way honest, though.

  5. “Unless the Times posted an editor’s note, I think it’s a little dishonest …”

    The New York Times? Dishonest?

    Nah! Never.

  6. Well, when James Brown dies they already have a good dance tune to commemorate it.

    James Brown shook the ground
    with every word he said.
    (Some other words here I forgot)
    James Brown…is dead.

  7. “Not much has happened in Bob’s life since.” Nor will it ever, it seems.

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