Is “Oh, shit, I’m about to crash” a suitable headline for an article about a young woman’s violent death?

I think it’s commendable that 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 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 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 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.

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  1. dan
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    yeah, thats not cool at all.

  2. Edward
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I bet that if it was a loved one of Tony Dearing’s, that we would have seen a different headline.

  3. Jules
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Really awful.

  4. Brainless
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Horrible if it was made up, but spot-on if it was an actual quote. What the heck else do you think is going to get through to girls this age? Should we ask nicely? Maybe have a very special episode of “Blossom”? Plant that seed — “I’m going to crash… I’m going to crash…” — and maybe, just maybe, they’ll hang up and drive.

  5. Nora
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Sounds like an episode of Thundercats.
    “My arms!!!!!….Can’t ….move…my arms!!!!…..”
    In the time it took her to say she was about to crash, she probably could have avoided the wreck. Just sounds completely made up.

  6. Kristin
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    The Ann Arbor News was great for sensationalizing everything from teen suicide to the opening of a new shoe store, in its day. Maybe it’s a return to the news service’s roots.

  7. Eel
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Just imagine what they would have made of a teen suicide in a new shoe store?

  8. Anonymous Mike
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    The local company mentioned in the last paragraph is Arbor Brewing, and, given their appeal with young creative types, this wasn’t the smartest thing they could have done. The results are sure to be better than what they have now, but they really should work with a local designer and redo all of their labels.

  9. insider
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    what they practice at the former ann arbor news isn’t news. the professionals, who demanded a living wage, are gone. what’s left are glorified bloggers. it’s the future of journalism. this isn’t to say that the reporters on staff aren’t trying. they are. and occasionally they get good stories. the workload, however, is incredible, and you can’t be expected to do good work and submit ten stories or more a week. they’re being set up for failure. but it’s all about the almighty dollar.

  10. ChelseaL
    Posted February 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to respectfully disagree with you, Mark, based on my experience driving around greater Boston today. It’s not just teens, of course. Every idiot with a license thinks there’s something wrong with keeping two hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

    I think this unfortunate young woman’s words and image should be posted on billboards. Seriously.

  11. anonymous
    Posted February 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Another gruesome headline:

    “Omg what just happened to me! I was attacked by a sea lion! Lo que me ha sucedido hoy! Un leon marino ha intentado atacarme.”

    Fortunately, though, Shakira survived her sea lion attack.

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