Margalit Fox on Life, Death, and the Best Job in Journalism | Conversations with Tyler
Margalit Fox, a celebrated obituary writer, delves into the art of crafting obituaries, the significance of acknowledging individuals’ contributions, and the profound impact her work has had on her outlook on life.
In her conversation with Tyler Cowen, she provides a unique perspective on life, death, and storytelling.
Writing obituaries involves ethical considerations, particularly when it comes to respecting the privacy of the deceased and their families.
Obituaries are not meant to glorify the deceased, but to provide a balanced and truthful account of their life.
Interacting with Grieving Families
Interacting with grieving families is a challenging aspect of writing obituaries.
It requires sensitivity and professionalism to make families feel comfortable and willing to share information, without crossing professional boundaries.
Writing obituaries has provided Fox with a life-affirming perspective.
The focus of an obituary is not on the tragedy of death, but on the celebration of the person’s life and their contributions to the world.
This perspective encourages her to live life to the fullest.
Cultural differences in how death is approached and understood are evident in the process of writing obituaries.
For instance, some Eastern European cultures do not inform terminally ill patients about their condition, highlighting the diverse ways in which societies deal with the concept of death.
Economic factors influence the publication of obituaries.
Many newspapers are scaling back or eliminating their obituary departments due to financial constraints.
Despite this, Fox believes that obituaries are an important part of journalism and storytelling.
Diversity in Obituaries
The lack of diversity in obituaries is a reflection of the historical lack of diversity among those who were allowed to be actors on the world stage.
However, as the window of history moves forward, the diversity of obituary subjects has increased.
Influence on Personal Perspective
Fox’s work has influenced her personal perspective on life.
She shares that writing obituaries has given her a ‘carpe diem’ sense, encouraging her to live life to the fullest.
Obituaries are not just a recitation of facts but a narrative arc that covers a person’s life from birth to death. This narrative structure allows for creativity and storytelling, making obituaries one of the most interesting sections of a newspaper. – Margalit Fox
Fox has written obituaries for both heroes and villains of history, emphasizing that her job is to tell the story of individuals who have made history, for better or worse.
She sees this as a weighty responsibility, akin to ushering people out of the world.
Passion for Narrative
Fox’s passion for narrative and storytelling is a recurring theme throughout the podcast.
She sees this as the common thread that ties together all her work, from her obituaries to her non-fiction books.
She expresses gratitude for the privilege of being able to tell stories and share narratives with her readers.