THE RYERSON INDEX

to death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers

WHAT SORT OF COVERAGE DO
NEWSPAPER NOTICES PROVIDE?

 

We are often asked what percentage of registered deaths are included in Ryerson. The simple answer is that we don't know exactly, because there are too many variables. But we are able to provide some interesting statistics which can act as a guide to estimating the coverage.

The table below compares the total deaths recorded in NSW each year with the total notices published in both Sydney daily newspapers - Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and Daily Telegraph (DT). We have also identified those notices appearing in both newspapers on the same day, to avoid double-counting in our estimates.

There is a clear declining trend in the number of notices published, despite a gradual increase in the number of deaths occurring. We put this trend down to two factors:

  1. the increasing cost of inserting a death notice. This has a two-fold result: some deaths are now not reported at all, while others which in the past would have been reported in more than one paper are now only reported once. Thus, many non-metropolitan deaths are now being recorded in country papers, and not published in the metropolitan dailies.

  2. the increasing proportion of residents with ethnic origins, for whom publication of a death notice is not a natural action, or who are more likely to use an ethnic-language newspaper to notify of a death, rather than the SMH.
The figures for actual death registrations from 1972 until the present were supplied, and are used, with the permission of the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Figures for earlier years are taken from the "Official Yearbook of the Commonwealth of Australia", published by the ABS.

To compare the Registry figures with the newspaper figures, we have divided the yearly total for each paper by the corresponding Registry total, to give the inclusion rates as raw percentages. We have also identified those cases where the same notice was inserted in both papers on the same day, and removed these duplicates when calculating the overall percentage.

Such a calculation can only give an approximation, because of factors such as:

  1. deaths which are the subject of more than one notice over a number of days. A sample of our data shows about 3.5% of published deaths fall into this category.

  2. deaths which occur interstate or overseas, and so do not count in the NSW stats, but have a notice published in a NSW newspaper. A sample of our data shows about 6.5% of published deaths fall into this category.
These figures suggest that about 10% of published deaths should be excluded when comparing the combined SMH and DT figures to those from the Registry. We have used this figure when calculating our "best guess" for the combined percentage.

Further figures are added to the table as each years' notices are completed, and in the case of current years, when the NSW Registry website is updated with the previous year's totals.

YEAR

DEATH REGS

SMH DEATHS

RAW SMH %

DT DEATHS

RAW DT %

DUPLICATES
(Both papers, same day)

COMBINED %
(our best estimate)

1950

30,965

 

 

 

 

 

 

1951

31,932

18,671

58%

 

 

 

 

1952

32,038

26,099

59%

 

 

 

 

1953

31,707

18,716

59%

 

 

 

 

1954

32,444

19,423

60%

 

 

 

 

1955

32,553

19,849

61%

 

 

 

 

1956

34,064

20,882

61%

 

 

 

 

1957

33,317

19,933

60%

 

 

 

 

1958

32,350

19,951

62%

 

 

 

 

1959

35,249

21,799

62%

 

 

 

 

1960

35,030

22,184

63%

 

 

 

 

1961

35,048

21,970

63%

 

 

 

 

1962

36,861

232719

63%

 

 

 

 

1963

37,226

23,736

64%

 

 

 

 

1964

39,487

25,156

64%

 

 

 

 

1965

38,949

25,423

65%

 

 

 

 

1966

40,546

26,391

65%

 

 

 

 

1967

39,613

25,702

65%

 

 

 

 

1968

41,803

26,706

64%

 

 

 

 

1969

40,665

26,099

64%

 

 

 

 

1970

43,601

27,504

63%

 

 

 

 

1971

41,691

26,654

64%

 

 

 

 

1972

42,865

26,652

62%

 

 

 

 

1973

44,085

25,186

57%

 

 

 

 

1974

44,663

27,479

62%

 

 

 

 

1975

40,484

24,782

61%

 

 

 

 

1976

42,098

25,796

61%

 

 

 

 

1977

40,338

24,337

60%

 

 

 

 

1978

40,336

23,837

59%

 

 

 

 

1979

38,790

22,868

59%

 

 

 

 

1980

41,030

23,027

56%

 

 

 

 

1981

39,944

23,092

58%

 

 

 

 

1982

42,334

22,839

54%

 

 

 

 

1983

40,302

21,966

55%

 

 

 

 

1984

39,078

21,680

55%

 

 

 

 

1985

44,006

22,667

52%

 

 

 

 

1986

41,990

21,447

51%

 

 

 

 

1987

41,964

21,777

52%

 

 

 

 

1988

44,436

21,507

48%

 

 

 

 

1989

44,756

22,217

50%

1,518

4%

465

47%

1990

43,552

20,577

47%

1,563

4%

423

45%

1991

42,304

19,813

47%

1,343

3%

364

44%

1992

44,578

19,959

45%

1,649

4%

447

43%

1993

43,034

19,345

45%

1,479

3%

366

43%

1994

44,881

19,959

44%

2,206

5%

559

43%

1995

44,710

18,205

41%

4,068

9%

812

43%

1996

45,038

18,130

40%

4,697

10%

792

44%

1997

45,289

17,619

39%

5,468

12%

865

44%

1998

44,437

17,037

38%

5,850

13%

1,013

44%

1999

43,540

16,551

38%

5,935

14%

1,149

44%

2000

45,389

16,282

36%

6,463

14%

1,297

43%

2001

44,960

15,445

34%

6,662

15%

1,274

42%

2002

46,712

15,805

34%

7,262

16%

1,343

42%

2003

46,061

14,955

32%

7,175

16%

1,188

41%

2004

45,881

14,415

31%

7,622

17%

1,187

41%

2005

44,803

13,651

30%

7,390

16%

1,165

40%

2006

45,926

13,050

28%

7,723

17%

1,053

39%

2007

47,025

13,576

29%

7,886

17%

1,026

39%

2008

48,006

13,725

29%

8,137

17%

1,015

39%

2009

47,314

12,724

27%

7,634

16%

868

37%

2010

47,493

12,189

26%

7,266

15%

785

35%

2011

49,801

12,413

25%

7,345

15%

762

34%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOTAL
1989-2011

1,045,490

377,642

36%

124,341

12%

20,218

41%

TOTAL
1951-2011

2,520,407

1,474,148

58%

 

 

 

 

YEAR

DEATH REGS

SMH DEATHS

RAW SMH %

DT DEATHS

RAW DT %

DUPLICATES
(Both papers, same day)

COMBINED %
(our best estimate)

This page is owned by Ryerson Index Inc, a non-profit organisation incorporated under the laws of New South Wales, Australia. The last update was October 30th, 2012.