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The media doesn't have a lot of speeds when it comes to covering the passing of cultural icons. The typical default mode, at least immediately after death, is stiffly hagiographical; many obituaries are mostly pre-written, sometimes years in advance, so they tend to have a frozen-in-amber, history-book quality to them.

The dawn of the social media era, and especially the birth of Twitter in 2006, changed the equation. A critical mass of brief, unrehearsed expressions of shock and mourning add up to a notable death becoming a "trending topic." In fact, one of the recurring jolts of being on Twitter is seeing the name of a famous person you love trending and then instantaneously experiencing a sinking feelingyou just can't click fast enough to find out if they're trending because they died. (Or, alternately, if they did something wonderfulor terrible.)

In the past 24 hours, both Billy Graham and Judy Blame have been trending topics and the subject of mainstream-media obits, and it's been fascinating to see their vastly different lives juxtaposed repeatedly simply because they happened to die within days of each other. (Graham died today and Blame died on Monday, though his passing was only formally announced yesterday.)

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