I think it’s commendable that AnnArbor.com is marshaling their considerable resources in order to draw attention to the risks posed by distracted driving, but I found their headline today to be unnecessarily sensationalistic, to the point of being offensive. “Oh, shit, I’m about to crash,” while it may have well been what the young woman said on her cell phone right before dying, does not make for a fitting epitaph, especially when it takes up half of a paper’s front page. (I get that it’s relevant, in that she supposedly said it over a cell phone, and folks are attributing the fact that she crashed to her being on the phone, but, to me, it’s not that far from posting a photo of a person jumping from the World Trade center on 9/11 with the headline, “Damnnnnn!” It’s in bad taste.) I’d like to give the editors of the paper the benefit of the doubt, and assume that this was motivated by their desire to draw people’s attention and initiate a community-wide conversation on distracted driving, but my gut tells me that it has more to do with selling papers.
Here’s the background… Kelsey Raffaele, the young woman from Sault Ste. Marie pictured above, passed away two years ago. I don’t know that it’s relevant to our conversation, but she was not only talking on the phone at the time of her life-ending crash, but she was also passing another car, on a two lane road, at a high rate of speed. And she’d only had her license for four months. The reason this crash is in the news again is that Raffaele’s mother just recently introduced a bill in the Michigan Senate that would ban the use of cell phones in cars operated by novice drivers.
It’s also worth noting that the individuals who write the articles for AnnArbor.com aren’t the ones who pen the headlines and dictate graphic design. So, I’m not placing blame with the author of the piece in question. I just think that someone at AnnArbor.com could have done a better job of conveying the message, so that it didn’t read like a morbid headline from The Onion. While I think it’s great that AnnArbor.com is helping rally support for her mother’s cause, I think this young woman, and her family, deserve better.
And, speaking of bad graphic design decisions made by local companies, it’s been brought to my attention that a beloved Ypsi company that I’m proud to patronize, is using the rightfully vilified online company 99 Designs for some new logo work. In this instance, I’m chalking it up to them not knowing any better, and I suspect they’ll change course once it’s brought to their attention, but I thought that I’d mention it here, in case any other business owners were considering going down the seductive “let’s get a ton of starving designers to design work for us and then just select one to pay… maybe” path.