The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

DEAD MAN WRITING
dead dead dead
I'm sure you've caught wind of the death of Bob Hope earlier this week. The New York Times decided to commemorate this death by using an obituary written by Vincent Canby--who has been dead himself since 2000.

"He wrote the piece a few years ago," said [Times interim executive editor Joe] Lelyveld, "and not much has happened in Bob Hope's life since."


Hey, it's hard to argue with that. Fact is, if it hadn't been for the hoopla surrounding Hope's 100th birthday a couple of months ago, Hope's death would have been the first time he'd made news in ages.

A big part of this is the New York Post taking a swipe at its cross-town rival while it's still reeling from the Jayson Blair fallout. But undoubtedly, the Times did itself no favors by running Canby's piece, even with the ahead-of-time disclosure of his two-year-old passing. (Jeez, I'd love to be getting bylines posthumously!)

In all seriousness, the Times really didn't need this. Despite the common practice of preparing celebrity obits way ahead of the actual demise (remember the CNN.com snafu back in April, when they posted ready-set obits of Ronald Reagan, the Pope and even Bob Hope?), the simple story that will remain in people's minds will be that they allowed a piece by a dead writer get published. Plus, the presumption will be that it was a goof-up.