Eastern Illinois Student Newspaper: To Survive a Tornado, Lay in a Ditch, Play Dead & Tell ‘Wicked Story’

At the close of an otherwise perfectly solid editorial on tornado preparation tips published today, The Daily Eastern at Eastern Illinois University goes off the rails a bit. The concluding sentiment– a seemingly tone-deaf attempt at humor– has already gone mini-viral.  Most prominently, it has earned a spot on the “WTF” section of Reddit: “In my school paper today…really? Wtf?

Here’s the staff editorial’s start and close: “Tornadoes have been hitting the Midwest hard. Last Wednesday, a large tornado killed six people in Harrisburg, Ill.  On Friday, deadly tornadoes hit in five states killing 36 people and leveling small towns. . . . If a tornado touches down while you’re walking to class and you are far from shelter, lie face down in a ditch. Besides protecting yourself from flying debris, this is also a good way to convince the tornado that you are already dead and not worth chasing.  There are many benefits to surviving a tornado, including having a wicked story to tell and not dying.”

For the record, I’m in the slight cringe camp, not the full-on WTF category.  My first impression is that the writer(s)’ intentions were good (on spec, finding a ditch sounds like something I would do if caught outside in a tornado).  But the related jokey feel falls flat in the face of the piece’s start confirming so many recent tornado deaths. The people who are now gone don’t have wicked stories to tell, you know?

Lesson: Be careful about even the hint of humor when dealing with such a serious, impacting issue or event.

One Response to “Eastern Illinois Student Newspaper: To Survive a Tornado, Lay in a Ditch, Play Dead & Tell ‘Wicked Story’”
  1. I just heard a well known author (Amos Oz – not an American author, but an Israeli one) talking about “blurring the line between comedy and tragedy” in his writings. It seems that people who often face danger can do this.

    Certainly, serious advice on what to do when a tornado approaches, is necessary.