A couple of emailers have asked me recently about what they thought were obvious errors in obituary notices. One was an unusual spelling of a common name, and another was a piece of the person's biography that the reader thought sounded questionable.
Both asked a similar question: Does The Star run obituaries past a copy editor? The general policy is no.
The paper offers seven lines free for death notices of people from the Kansas City area, but anything longer is a paid notice. The family or funeral homes submitting this copy would be the ones responsible for its content.
I think that's a good policy, since obituaries have nothing to do with the newsroom. And while it's possible the readers who contacted me may have been right, I've learned not to make assumptions about these types of details. Trust me -- as someone with a somewhat-unusual name, I've come across many people who use variant spellings proudly. After all, there's no such thing as a "correct" way to spell something like a name. And whose business is it if anyone wants to create a novel spelling for his or her own child anyway?
As for biographical details, I'm sure some families may mis-remember or take artistic license with history occasionally. But again, an obituary isn't really journalism, nor do I think it's presented that way. When the newsroom does prepare its own story on someone's death, though, the usual standards of attribution and verification should always apply.