10/01/2010 11:13 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

St. Petersburg Times Responds With Moving Obit After Insensitive Comments Mar Death Notice

Sometimes, the smallest lines defended by journalists are among the most important ones. Properly blowing up on the Internet today -- Choire Sicha was among the first to flag it from Metafilter -- is an obituary of Neil Alan Smith, written by Andrew Meacham of the St. Petersburg Times.

The salient section is this:

About 11 p.m. Sept. 12, a car struck Neil Alan Smith and threw him off his bicycle on Fourth Street N. The car didn't stop.

Mr. Smith, who was pedaling home from his job as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack, struck his head on a light post.

He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center. He died there six days later. He was 48.

Police have not located the hit-and-run driver.

Shortly after the St. Petersburg Times announced Mr. Smith's death on its website, a reader posted a comment stating the following: A man who is working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack at the age of 48 is surely better off dead.

Web editors removed the comment, deeming it an offensive and insensitive insult to a dead man's friends and family. Though hardly unusual -- check out the comments beneath stories about any recent tragedy -- this one spurred the Times to make Mr. Smith the subject of this story, as a reminder that every life matters.

What follows that is excellent, so go read the whole thing.

As the Bible says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." I seem to remember that the last person who cited that publicly was derided for being an "embarrassment".

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