Stories Behind Dallas Morning News’ ‘At the Edge of Life’ Project

When I interned at The Dallas Morning News last summer, I heard a lot about “the death project.” Editors talked about in the stairway and the other interns would ask with interest if I’d heard anything about it.

I never met Lee Hancock, the reporter on the project, but I met photographer Sonya Hebert briefly while learning how to edit video one day. She was sitting through hours of footage, trying to cut it down and edit it for one of the many videos that ended up in the project.

The videos made me teary-eyed, especially the one that included the story of a girl who struggled with an eating disorder as a way of coping with her mom’s pending death.

This is just one of several stories Hebert captured with her camera for the five-part series, “At the Edge of Life.” The series addresses some difficult questions that look at the way we experience death, and how it changes the way we, and our family members, live. Given all the emotions and trauma associated with death, it’s the type of story that lends itself to powerful images and storytelling.

In timing with Hebert’s nomination as a 2009 Pulitzer finalist, Poynter’s Kenny Irby has put together a Q&A with Hebert. It’s worth a read to find out more about the project and the lessons Hebert learned from it.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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