Burying the lede

Speaking of stories edited after the fact, the NYTimes edited the lead paragraph of its obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill after an outpouring of criticism.

The original opening paragraph read:

She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. 'The world’s best mom,' her son Matthew said.

The new opening paragraph reads:

She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.

 

NYTimes Public Editor Margaret Sullivan acknowledged the criticism.

I'm glad they made the edit, but I'm also glad the obituary also acknowledges the increased obstacles to her career choices from being a woman. The challenges facing woman in a variety of fields shouldn't be swept under the rug.

This may or may not have inspired some satirical riffs on possible opening lines of obituaries for other famous historical. Someone should collect those somewhere if so.

Only somewhat related, last Monday night, I went to see Dave Chappelle do a standup set at the Independent here in San Francisco. He did one impression of Paul Revere living off his famous midnight ride for the rest of his life, telling the story to everyone who would listen, ad nauseam. It was my favorite bit not only because Chappelle's impression of Revere was so absurd but because it pointed to the universal human need to mythologize their own legacy.

Those who are no longer with us deserve an honest accounting of their lives.