The Miami Herald Introduces Video "Pre-bits"

Don't want a hum-drum death that lacks any semblance of production value? Call the Miami Herald's Elinor J. Brecher, a veteran reporter who recently took over the newspaper's obit desk. She might just make you a post-mortem star.

Inspired by the recently deceased humor columnist Art Buchwald, Brecher is asking people who "understand their place in history" to contact her and sit down for a videotaped "pre-bit" wherein the future corpse will explain his or her life.

From the Herald's Friday edition:

The Herald is changing the way we approach news obituaries in both the print edition and on our website, MiamiHerald.com.

We want to include audio and/or video with the website version. We also hope that people who understand their place in the history and culture of South Florida will consider sitting for ''pre-bits:'' videotaped interviews to be shown on the site following the subject's death.

The absence of electronic material doesn't render someone unworthy of a news obituary. An interesting life stands on its own.

-- ELINOR J. BRECHER

She originally broached the topic in a story on August 5, where she wrote about Buchwald's own "pre-bit." Here's the lede:

Hi. I'm Art Buchwald, and I just died.

With that characteristically sardonic quip, humor columnist Art Buchwald revolutionized the

obituary format.

He'd sat for a video obit with The New York Times before his death on Jan. 17, with the understanding that it would show on the newspaper's website afterward.

I thought it was brilliant. Who better to have the last word on a life than the person who lived it? How more effectively to convey the nuance of a voice forever silenced than with that voice still animate?

Clearly, this is not for everyone, but for others -- especially those who grasp their own place in history -- it's a priceless legacy, one that I'm asking you to consider.

I find the idea strange and morbid, kind of a last call from the grave usually reserved for wills and/or a message to one's children. But maybe I'm just not down with my own mortality yet (and would feel silly presuming any historical significance). There is no doubt that if Brecher gets some interesting takers, people who actually have a place in local history, it could lead to some very compelling video.


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