Analysis: Obituary for Frank Neuhauser, first National Spelling Bee winner

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By Kelsey Lund

The obituary published on Tuesday in the New York Times for Frank Neuhauser, 97, took a more creative approach than the standard obituary format. It began with a lead introducing the winning word that Neuhauser spelled at the first National Spelling Bee in 1925.

From there it continued with its creative format, telling the story of Neuhauser's monumental win, and not until the sixth paragraph even stating that Neuhauser died.

I think the lead worked because it set the scene for Neuhauser's biggest accomplishment, an accomplishment he achieved at the age of 11. It grabbed the reader by introducing him/her to the most fascinating details of Neuhauser's life. Even though it did not exactly read like an obituary, it worked for the sake of telling Neuhauser's story.

The article cited Neuhauser's son as confirming his death, Neuhauser's own interviews with publications, and the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Most of the reporting was done about the spelling bee and the circumstances of Neuhauser's spelling career, and there were no quotes about his personality from family or friends.

Overall, the obituary was nothing like a resume because it only focuses on one part of Neuhauser's life--his experience with spelling bees. Although it briefly skates over Neuhauser's other accomplishments, its one focus is his spelling bee legacy. A resume would not go into the amount of detail of Neuhauser's legacy, nor the humanizing story of that portion of his life like his obituary did.

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This page contains a single entry by lund1096 published on March 24, 2011 5:23 PM.

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