In Madison, Wisc., a Political Obituary

By: Erin Olson

Most political endorsements in newspapers appear on the editorial page. But in Madison, Wis., Friday, an endorsement appeared in — of all places — the obituaries.

The death notice for Jane Buffett, which appeared in both The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison’s two daily newspapers, asked that voters elect John Kerry president.

“I didn’t think it was quite as big of a deal as it turned out to be,” said Marci Rosen, customer service director for Capital Newspapers, which owns both dailies. “But it was unusual enough that someone came and showed it to me.

“People put lots of things in the obituaries: song lyrics, poems,” Rosen said. “This is what she really cared about.”

Rosen said there was never any discussion about not running the obituary, a paid notice placed by Buffett’s family. The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal do not have standard formats for their obituaries and will not censor them unless they contain information that is “in poor taste.” Even then, Rosen explained, the final decision is left up to the family of the deceased.

Another politically charged obituary ran in the Madison dailies in August 2003 and also got national attention, according to Rosen. That obituary was for Sally Baron, and it asked for memorials in her honor to be made “to any organization working for the removal of President Bush.”

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