The Times (London) fills its main obit page today with two musicians whose deaths we lamented two months ago. Roger Bigley (pictured) was viola player of the Lindsay Quartet and Richard Marlow, choral director of Trinity College, Cambridge. Both led full and useful musical lives, but the self-styled newspaper of record has taken around ten weeks to note their departure.
The Guardian today mourns the loss of John Whitworth, a pioneering countertenor ally of Alfred Deller’s. He died a mere six weeks ago.
These are not music magazines or academic journals. They are newspapers, which are supposed to print things that are new, not weeks and months old. And therein lies the dilemma. Shrinking print newspapers cannot fulfil their former criteria of immediacy and comprehensiveness within the space and budgets provided. The result is late – or very late – treatment of the late lamented.
And while a very late obit might tick the comprehensivess box, it also gives the impression – often misleading – that the person being eulogised was not very important or renowned. Better late than never is not a good enough excuse. It does a disservice to the dead, their families and the dwindling readers of print media. Newspapers need to come up with a better solution.