He has come to share some of their occupational hazards. “It’s hard to say whether I’m just more attuned to this now, but I see death and dying coming more and more to the forefront of the mainstream media,” he says. “Swine flu, the Air Force One scare…. Just two recent examples of times where people thought that mass death was imminent.”

But personally, he is less interested in death so much as transitions—“foundational transitions,” he says, often. He is happiest when using the obituary conceit as a way to address cultural changes. He has written about the death of the American muscle car, the purchasing habits of people who are actively aware of their own mortality, the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, the end of the television program ER, and other, similiarly funereal topics. “I’m a real generalist right now,” he admits.

Eventually, he hopes to spend more time reporting on culture and the arts. For now, though, he is more than happy where he is. Although he was initially unsure whether Obit would find an audience, he is confident that it is a magazine on the move. “This place has the ability to become something very large,” he says. “I really think it’s something that, over the next few years, has a future.”

Correction: The original version of this piece stated that the obituary conventions attended by Andavolu were sponsored by the Society of Professional Obituary Writers. They were actually sponsored by the International Association of Obituarists. CJR regrets the error.

Justin Peters is editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.