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Buchwald: “Hi … I just died!”

January 22, 2007

Famed newspaper humorist/satirist Art Buchwald died last week at the age of 81. How did I find out? He told me himself!

Art Buchwald (Time)The New York Times posted a video interview with Buchwald about his life and death, taped in advance in July.  They posted it minutes after his actual death!

“Hi, I’m Art Buchwald, and I just died” was how the writer began the video interview, addressing the watchers. Humorous to the end.

From Editor and Publisher story about the video:

Senior Producer David Rummel, who has been at the paper for five years, liked the approach and the two have been involved ever since. “It is an oral history project,” Rummel, a former 60 Minutes producer and ABC News investigative journalist, said. “It is a chance to give them the last word.”

Although Buchwald’s is the first to be posted online, [NYT reporter Tim] Weiner said at least 10 other such interviews have been completed and edited, with plans to conduct about three or four each month. He said a former president is among those who have been interviewed, along with an unnamed scientist and other celebrities.

“It took a while to get started and this is the first person we have interviewed who has died,” Weiner said. “It is the guy talking about his life in a way that television would never take the time to do, but that holds to our standards.”

One thing that troubles me about this NYT feature: Isn’t this like creating a journalistic “death pool,” guessing on who’s likely to die and garner Page One headlines and trying to “collect” them in advance? Instead of points, you get web traffic for being right.

The E&P story says that some celebrities/politicians/leaders turned down the Times’ offer to record them — one of which was a former president — while another former president did record his video obit for the Times.

The Times says they have 15 celebs “in the can” already for future use. Here’s the five I’d like to see in a postmortem video:

  • comedian Jerry Lewis
  • Cuban dictator Fidel Castro
  • Guitar legend Les Paul
  • Actor Ernest Borgnine
  • Evangelist Billy Graham

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