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How many words would your obituary be worth?

By Claire Armitstead   January 2002

What is a life worth? 500 words? 1,000? Almost as significant in the world of the newspaper obituary department is where and when these words will appear. Death may be all around us, but good deaths-that is, of people whose lives chime with the readerships of a particular newspaper-share with London buses a tendency to come either at the same time or not at all.

Consider the misfortune of dying in the same week as the Princess of Wales or Mother Teresa. The big set-piece obituaries are state occasions in their own right, in which newspapers marshal public emotion, and…

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