The Associated Press decision to prepare an obituary for 26-year-old troubled pop star Britney Spears has triggered a debate about the extent the news media should anticipate the early deaths of celebrities like Spears, actress Lindsay Lohan and singer Amy Winehouse, who are clearly living risky lives. The AP had no obituary ready when actor Brad Renfro, 25, or former playmate Anna Nicole Smith, 39, died, which was a "wake-up call," said an AP editor.
"No one particularly likes this part of the business, but it's something you need to do." A Washington Post obit writer called it a "complex debate." It's "unclear to what degree somebody really is on the edge," he said. "Do you spend the time to put something together if you're wondering" when it will run? He couldn't recall an obit for anyone under 30 among 100 the newspaper has prepared ahead of time. (Read more obituary stories.)