So you spend a good decade or so of your life contributing to the Times, making a name for yourself in the Styles section before leaving for greener pastures in 2000. Then you die, tragically young, of breast cancer. Will you get a Times obit? No. Will you even be mentioned in the paper? Nope! In fact, poor Monique Yazigi, who died last week at 45, got only a posthumous rejection letter. Which is about the most depressing thing we can think of. Sigh. That letter, from obituaries editor Bill McDonald, below.
William McDonald Sent: Monday, July 28, 2008 2:12 PM To: Markarian, James Subject: RE: Obituary for Monique Yazigi Mr. Markarian, Let me first express my condolences to you and other members of Monique's family. I knew her and worked with her a bit when I was an editor in the Arts & Leisure section years ago. She was immensely likable and a bright, energetic writer, and I was quite saddened to hear about her passing. Several people here also asked whether we'd write an obit about Monique. We gave it careful consideration and spoke to some who had worked with her but ultimately came to the decision that we would not. Senior editors concurred in that decision. We have to weigh every candidate for an obit on a common scale, with complete impartiality, and make a judgment based on a person's impact and significance — his or her newsworthiness — for a paper with a national readership. We also have limited resources — a small staff of writers. We receive hundreds of requests for obits each week, regarding very accomplished people, but can publish only a dozen so. For all Monique's talents and contributions to the Times, I and others did not feel that her story quite met our highly selective standard for a news obituary. Reasonable people may disagree and want to debate those merits. But that was my decision and it will have to stand. Last week, we also decided not to write about a medical school dean, a respected conservationist, an author and expert on African geography, to name a few. All accomplished people who made a mark. But again, we have to be very selective, given our space and resources. Sincerely, Bill McDonald
Now Fox gossip Roger Friedman calls this a "snippy rejection," which is a stretch-and-a-half. It's a tough call to decide that Nixon's director of Telecommunications Policy merits inclusion more than a woman who helped develop the tone and style of Sunday Styles, but you'd think there'd be room for a mention, right? Anyway, Yazigi's trustee bought a paid obit, which ran this week, and the Times in-house newsletter featured a nice tribute, but none of that is enough to mitigate Roger Friedman's outrage.