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THESE PAGES ARE EMBARGOED UNTIL REAGAN'S DEATH.
April 20, 2002 5:07 PM   Subscribe

THESE PAGES ARE EMBARGOED UNTIL REAGAN'S DEATH. Like looking into the future, Scripps Howard News Service has produced a 12 page newspaper insert that serves as a touching tribute to Ronald Reagan. Promise not to read any of it until he's really dead, okay?
posted by mathowie (45 comments total)

 
Uh...does anybody else just find this preemptively morbid?
WTF were they thinking?
posted by Su at 5:15 PM on April 20, 2002


More to the point, why is this available online w/o password protection? Whoever set this up was probably told to keep it secure, and they're gonna be in deep shit when their bosses find out it's open to the whole wide web...

As for preemptively morbid, I believe most major news services have obits prepared for celebrities, esp. if they're known to be old and ill. I bet there's a spread for the Pope as well, but probably on the order of 1 or 2 pages.
posted by meep at 5:23 PM on April 20, 2002


Amazing find. These things are usually kept under lock and key. I guess they'll have to redo the whole thing now. ;)

Su: This is standard practice for newspapers. When someone actually dies they spruce it up a bit. Pre-edited obituaries are actually updated every six months or so, at least in English newspapers like the Daily Telegraph and The Times. But, yes, it's creepy all the same to actually read through.

Poor old Ronald Reagan. You can't help liking the guy, can you?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:26 PM on April 20, 2002


Can you divulge how you found this?
posted by Optamystic at 5:26 PM on April 20, 2002


Hmm, not really hidden at all, just go to http://www.shns.com, get auto-redirected to http://www.shns.com/frontdoor, and click "packages" in the top nav - there's a link to Reagan right there. (unless my cookies are set to make this easy now)
posted by kokogiak at 5:29 PM on April 20, 2002


heh heh. You can also find it through a simple google query. Never mind password protection, you'd think they'd know how robots.txt works...
posted by dchase at 5:33 PM on April 20, 2002


Matt, you're a few days late to the party.
posted by mikewas at 5:37 PM on April 20, 2002


umm, the picture in this is named DAZE.JPG. So much for editorialization.
posted by machaus at 5:40 PM on April 20, 2002


Poor old Ronald Reagan. You can't help liking the guy, can you?

Hmm. No, sorry, can't. Oh well.
posted by owillis at 5:44 PM on April 20, 2002


I can.
posted by Ty Webb at 5:51 PM on April 20, 2002


meep: In the late '80s, I met the guy who did pre-fab obits for the NY Times, Albin Krebs. He is from Mississippi, and talked to students in journalism at Ole Miss (Univ. of Miss.), where he'd once been the student paper editor. The Times has him work on obits of major world figures and celebrities far in advance, sometimes years in advance. One he told us about specifically was Truman Capote's. The last obit I can find by him in the Times's archives is that of LĂ©opold Senghor, "Senegal's Poet of NĂ©gritude." No word as to whether that one was written in advance. I read his Eudora Welty obit in one sitting, unaware that Krebs wrote it.
posted by raysmj at 6:09 PM on April 20, 2002


You can't help liking the guy, can you?

Easily.
posted by rodii at 6:16 PM on April 20, 2002


Most major organizations have prepared obits for people who have yet to die. At the cable network where I work, we have packaged obits for bunches and bunches of people and will start working on new ones when a well-known figure is ailing. The big ones are Reagan and the Pope, but there are ones for Bob Hope and lots more.

The planning is also logistical in nature; for instance, we've paid rent for years for a rooftop in Rome so we can use it for a liveshot location when the Pope dies.

Not pre-emptively morbid as much as just being well-prepared.
posted by Vidiot at 6:43 PM on April 20, 2002


The advantage for Reagan obituarists is that from a journalistic point of view, the man's essentially already dead: that's to say, in his current state (something I'd wish on no-one) there's going to be little to add to what's already been prepared than a single date. Compare that with the poor sods who'd worked on the Queen Mum obits for the best part of, oh, perhaps the last 25 years, where the old bird was pretty active up to the last. It was pretty telling when the BBC's tribute programme was shown the night after she died, and plenty of the contributors were themselves long gone. Still, I wouldn't want to be on the nightshift in the US when Reagan finally passes away.
posted by riviera at 6:47 PM on April 20, 2002


Interesting that no one's mentioned the airport that already bears his name. That in itself was worse than any pre-written obituary, isn't it?



Oh, and I'd like to place an easy "long bet": when Reagan does pass away, Republicans will stump on it. "Remember the legacy of Reagan by voting against raising the minimum wage" and so on.
posted by jragon at 6:59 PM on April 20, 2002


"A triumph of the embalmers art"
Gore Vidal on Ronald Reagan

"I believe that Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was - an Arctic region covered with ice."
Steve Martin

"Ronald Reagan doesn't dye his hair, he's just prematurely orange"
Gerald Ford on Ronald Reagan

"I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born"
Ronald Reagan
posted by Settle at 7:16 PM on April 20, 2002


Speaking of "legacies" - they've already started the push to put him on the ten dollar bill. Why is anyone surprised that a heroic obituary/immortalization is already in the can? A lot of special interests have been waiting a while for him to finally go, just so they can legitimately kick their projects into high gear.
posted by yhbc at 7:39 PM on April 20, 2002


Thatcher is on her last legs too...

Makes you want to get a big bowl of popcorm, sit on the couch, and watch some CNN, doesn't it?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:55 PM on April 20, 2002


Why am I picturing that "Bring Out Your Dead" scene from Monty Python and The Holy Grail?

Reagan: "I feel happy..."
Scripps-Howard:"Shut up, you'll be stone dead in a moment!"
Reagan:"I think I'll go for a walk...."
Scripps-Howard:"You're not fooling anyone, you know..."
posted by jonmc at 8:01 PM on April 20, 2002


Yep... Here's their nice tribute to Bob Hope. Sigh.

Another no-no: Leaving your base indexes available.
posted by Hankins at 9:49 PM on April 20, 2002


Oh dear. The photo on that Thatcher page is quite disturbing. Is that a halo?
posted by smackfu at 9:55 PM on April 20, 2002


The saddest thing about this is it's not just straight obituary text. These are entire prefabricated pages, ready to be dropped right into Quark, guaranteeing that dozens of newspapers across the country will all be running the exact same pages, right down to the fonts and photos. What's the point of having thousands of different "local" newspapers if they all literally look exactly the same and run the exact same content?
posted by aaron at 10:27 PM on April 20, 2002


Aaron, which is another reason why I think this is a prefab idolatry piece, prepared not to commemorate Reagan's life or mark his death, but to carry out an agenda. Note the first spread page. (warning - large PDF file) The date of death is blank, but the first paragraph notes that the ex-President died at the age of 88. Has this been in the can since 1999?
posted by yhbc at 10:38 PM on April 20, 2002


aaron: what planet have you been living on for the past century? What do you think the Associated Press is? Sorry to be so bluntly negative, but newspapers have been doing this kind of thing since the 1840s. It's the only way most of the small newspapers can afford to cover news that doesn't happen in their community. The point of having different 'local' newspapers is that they cover 'local' news, and use wire services to supplement that with national and international news.
posted by louie at 11:07 PM on April 20, 2002



Bob Hope too!
In fact, there's tons of stuff here! Wheee! THANKS!
posted by BGM at 11:23 PM on April 20, 2002


Old people suck
posted by poodlemouthe at 1:30 AM on April 21, 2002


Louie, I am an former employee of the Associated Press, if you must know which planet I'm on. The difference is that local papers take AP pure text wire stories and chop them into parts, insert a few paragraphs of local angles inside them, often use local photos, design the pages themselves, etc. (Example: When Reagan dies, most papers will work up side stories about the time Ronnie visited town while campaigning or while president.) With these 100% prefab pages, there is none of that. None. The reader in Maine gets the exact same thing as the reader in Florida, who gets the exact same thing as the reader in California (which is particularly egregious considering Reagan's considerable connections to California). It's a quantum leap (in the wrong direction) beyond the mere use of AP wire copy.

(And yes, I'm aware the AP does dabble slightly in totally prefab pages itself. I'm no more a fan of them doing it than I am of Scripps-Howard or Gannett doing it.)

Note the first spread page. (warning - large PDF file) The date of death is blank, but the first paragraph notes that the ex-President died at the age of 88. Has this been in the can since 1999?

yhbc: Yes, it probably has been in the can that long. The basic details of a celebrity's life do not change; no matter when he dies, he will always have been born in 1911, will always have been shot in March 1981, etc. The exact details of Reagan's death can be easily filled into the first couple paragraphs of the piece when the time comes, and then sent to press immediately. I'm honestly at a loss as to why you think there's some sort of agenda behind this. American newspapers run fawning tributes to fallen leaders, regardless of political persuation. At this moment there are dozens of major newspapers with ready-to-publish obits of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton (many probably even have these same sorts ready-to-slap-down pages for both men given the "God only knows what'll happen next" fears after 9/11), and every major TV news organization has videotaped obits ready to throw on the air instantly. And the prefab obits for both men at every news outlet are almost certainly equally idolatrous, regardless of the overall political leanings of the given news organization. It's simply protocol that you're supposed to give the deceased president enormous respect. Even Nixon's obits back in 1994 (I think it was '94) completely glossed over that little niggling Watergate thing until well after he was in the ground.
posted by aaron at 2:11 AM on April 21, 2002


Speaking of obits for the Pope, here's a page from Knight Ridder letting editors know what will be available when John Paul goes. Unfortunately, no links to any photos, full-pagers, or the actual articles. Still, this gives one a chance to mix and match.

But back to my original point -- now I see the situation is even worse. I didn't realize that all their "special features" are available online -- and we're downloading the PDF's for free! I know this would be illegal, but any smalltown paper could download those suckers and print it without paying for anything! Do they have people combing every damned paper in the world, just to make sure noone is illegally printing their features and stories? I'm more aghst at what looks like an idiotic online business model. It's even worse, I can go to their story server for contributors and upload files. Does =anybody= at this place believe in password protection? Shee.
posted by meep at 3:28 AM on April 21, 2002


I hope they look these over before they send them out... check out page 4 of the reagan obit. On the map they've included to show where Dixon, Illinois is, Missouri is mistaken for Iowa.
posted by Rockames at 3:53 AM on April 21, 2002


There's little doubt that the spreads for Reagan will be fawning, whether or not this prefab piece is used or they're produced in-house. But that's because of a convergence of two things -- one, the perennial popularity of the 40th president, and two, the American determination to be polite to our presidents in death and remember only what nice guys they were. This is magnified even more by the sympathy factor generated by his long illness. Meanwhile, the misdeeds are forgotten, and Reagan in particular has the luck, if you can call it that, of not producing anything new that would generate criticism, so it all recedes even further into the hazy American Morning of the 80s.

Yes, I'm sure Indymedia and Counterpunch and others will get their licks in. Viva the First Amendment.
posted by dhartung at 4:31 AM on April 21, 2002


can't resist...


posted by crunchland at 5:16 AM on April 21, 2002


If he keeps doing that's he's gonna go blind.
posted by Optamystic at 5:25 AM on April 21, 2002


I wanna see the bear in the woods again.
posted by y2karl at 6:52 AM on April 21, 2002


mathowie: Wow - great link. I love this kind of stuff -- not pre-obit obits, but rather supposedly "secret" or otherwise off-limit information that is inadvertently posted. Anyone have more examples...?
posted by davidmsc at 8:00 AM on April 21, 2002


Scripps Howard is also a pretty conservative little operation, as far as its editorial stances go. Mind you, I once read a headline in the Memphis Commercial Appeal (a Scripps Howard rag) that read, of a zoning spat or something in a an upscale Memphis suburb, "Germantown Loses its Discreet Charm," the snarky meaning of which was likely lost on 99.873 percent of all readers. Still, anything coming from headquarters is going to be pretty darned conservative. "Self-assured man of vision made Americans feel good about themselves again." Oh, indeed. That's an objective fact, one you can state without any reliance on historical authorities, say.
posted by raysmj at 8:40 AM on April 21, 2002


Even Nixon's obits back in 1994 (I think it was '94) completely glossed over that little niggling Watergate thing until well after he was in the ground.

Actually Bob Dole said at the funeral that the 20th century will be forever called "the age of Nixon"
And then-president Clinton, despite all his supposed JFK fetish, shamelessly eulogized the man who hated the Kennedys the most
posted by matteo at 10:51 AM on April 21, 2002


Louie, I am an former employee of the Associated Press...

Ack! Am a former employee. I had written "ex-employee" and changed it to "former", and didn't notice the noun article. Bleah.

"Self-assured man of vision made Americans feel good about themselves again." Oh, indeed. That's an objective fact, one you can state without any reliance on historical authorities, say.

According to the poll numbers (on how people thought about the state of the nation, not Reagan's personal job approval), it is an objective fact, inasmuch as any general statement about what "Americans" feel can be. The Zeitgeist of the country by 1988, or even 1984, was a hell of a lot better than it was in 1980, whether you as an individual could stand the man or not. Even beyond the poll numbers, you aren't going to find any apolitical historians who would ever say with a straight face that Ronald Reagan made Americans in general more miserable and unsure of their place in ther world than they were during the whole post-1963-->LBJ-->Nixon-->Ford-->Carter downslide into "malaise."

Now if you want a truly snarky obit, try this one. The Reagan-haters here should take comfort in it; if the British press can produce something like this about a mere reporter, imagine what they'll be able to dish up when Ronnie does die.
posted by aaron at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2002


Aaron? Polls? Was that question specifically asked? Were the responsdents unanimous in their answers? A "conservative" believes Americans's individual psychological condition is affected by who the president is, even if he was in favor of individual initiative and freedom from government?

Meantime, matteo: Former President Clinton and former Sen. Dole are not newspaper obit writers. I doubt that any reputable news organization left Watergate out of the first two or three paragraphs of its Nixon obit, either in a direct or strongly implied manner. (Indirect would be OK. How many Americans, at least of the sort that regularly read newspapers and news on the Internet, say, need to be reminded that Nixon resigned in connection with the Watergate scandal?) They were, though, mostly more respectful than necessary, from what I recall (although I do remember some very negative takes). For those not interested in any praise of Nixon whatsoever, though, there is always Hunter Thompson's merciless Nixon obit. He runs over Nixon with a steamroller, then digs up his grave and builds a cage with ex-president's bones.
posted by raysmj at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2002


Since the cat is out now, I'll fess up that I'm an online media developer who has been looking at Scripps' wide-open "intranet" for a while. I actually have produced my own obit package for when Ronnie kicks it. (Unlike print, multimedia technology keeps changing, so I keep updating its potential. First it was bland HTML, then included video, and now has a rich yet subtle Flash structure. If he doesn't die soon, I'll need to make a WAP or ITV delivery option.) Scripps certainly isn't the only media conglomerate who has these things in the wide-open. But, to be honest, I'm afraid to link to the other available pages, as they have given me strategic advantages in the past.
posted by rex at 11:27 AM on April 21, 2002


Not sure if this counts.
posted by crunchland at 12:02 PM on April 21, 2002


Aaron? Polls? Was that question specifically asked? Were the responsdents unanimous in their answers? A "conservative" believes Americans's individual psychological condition is affected by who the president is, even if he was in favor of individual initiative and freedom from government?

Yes, polls. Yes, often. No, that's why I said "in general" and made the specific point about how it doesn't matter that you personally hate the man. No, a human believes Americas' collective psychological condition is affected by what the president DOES, how he acts, how he leads, how he orates, etc.
posted by aaron at 12:04 PM on April 21, 2002


Aaron - if Reagan gets an obit as affectionate as the one you linked I'd be very surprised. Actually, I'm surprised that you see it as snarky. Soho really was full of people like Graham Mason whose "bibulous misbehaviour" was generally celebrated in journalistic circles (someone on the radio recently eulogising an editor or sub-editor who edited all his copy from the saloon bar of the nearest pub). You've got the wrong end of the stick - this is a very affectionate obituary.
posted by Grangousier at 12:24 PM on April 21, 2002


You said "in general," but the story didn't, nor did it say anything about a "collective" psyche or quote poll numbers, etc. It's a subjective comment, stated without any quotes or info to back it up, a reflection of editorial values (which, some would say, are always there in any newspaper). In any case, I didn't say anything about hating the man. What's the deal?

Now, have the last word. Bye.
posted by raysmj at 12:28 PM on April 21, 2002


And it makes the news.
posted by rex at 6:28 PM on April 23, 2002


Has anyone mirrored the original files yet?
posted by leaveok at 12:52 PM on May 7, 2002


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