Why can’t I place an obituary myself?

A frequent question we receive is why a family member (or anyone for that matter) cannot place an obituary in the local newspaper. It is easy to assume that this limitation exists only to line the pockets of newspapers. But there is a very valid reason why.

Until most recently, it was common for people to post obituaries in the newspaper themselves. However, after several instances of falsely reported deaths, some with intent to defraud insurance companies, some as humorous pranks, and others to evade legal, financial, or marital difficulties, you can imagine it became difficult for the lowly obituary editor at the newspaper to discern who was telling the truth.

Wikipedia has a long list of prematurely published obituaries. The age of the internet has led to a rise in misreported deaths, especially for celebrities. Even Mike Feeney, a Reading funeral director, was erroneously reported as dead in 2017, and it took two years to fix the fall out. Keep in mind it is illegal to falsely report someone as deceased, and you can be sued for damages if you do. Always check snopes.com if you suspect something doesn’t seem right before sharing it.

In order to avoid any erroneous publications of death and any potential liability, most newspapers across the country limit obituary submission to funeral homes to ensure there is a verifiable record of the person’s death status. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t other outlets where the general public can post obituaries. In fact there are several websites now allowing this.

One of the main reasons why you might not want to post an obituary yourself has to do with privacy. Unlike newspaper obituaries and even obituaries on your funeral home’s website, the listed contact information is generally your own, leaving you vulnerable to fraud and scammers. This is especially true if you post on facebook or other social media platforms.

If someone you know has passed but the family has chosen not to publish an obituary, what can you do? Well, not much. You could set up your own memorial page for the person or post to your facebook feed. You could take out an ad in the newspaper, but you’d have to know the name of the funeral home who handled the services so the death could be verified. You could send letters or emails to everyone you know. All of that takes time, money, energy, and, in the end, might not reach everyone in the area who knew your loved one.

BerksObits is a new service available to funeral homes at rates much lower than the local newspaper to help extend the reach of the obituaries funeral homes are already posting on their websites. BerksObits does not list full obituaries. We are a distribution channel, much like the newspaper, for funeral homes to post the basics of their obituaries: Name, Date of Death, Location, and Spouse (if applicable). We directly link back to your funeral home’s website, where the full obituary is listed and where your friends and relatives can leave condolences, photos, and even donations to local charities. BerksObits simply increases the online exposure your obituary receives. Most local funeral homes have very few followers, and your friends and family would have to follow every funeral home in the county to even have a chance of seeing the obituary. BerksObits reaches more than 100K people in Berks County and surrounding areas via facebook, twitter and through our daily email blast.

So if you want to avoid paying high newspaper obituary costs, ask your funeral director about BerksObits. You’ll get all the benefits of the funeral home’s online obituary plus reach more people than the local newspaper does.