Illinois student paper tells students to play dead during a tornado

The editors at the The Daily Eastern News, a student paper at Eastern Illinois University, responded the way many media outlets did when deadly tornadoes began hitting the Midwest.

This photo shows how the story originally appeared in print. It's been corrected online.

The staff published an article offering tips on how to prepare for a tornado and how to survive when one hits. Most of the editorial offered good advice, such as to have a disaster kit filled with "nonperishable food, bottles of water, blankets, pillows, several flashlights and lanterns (battery-powered, as the old-school models have a tendency to light things on fire)."

It also told readers to find a radio that works without requiring electricity, and to head to a basement if a tornado approaches the area. Then things went off the rails in the story's final two paragraphs:

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.

It's a pretty jarring transition from serious life-and-death tips to play-dead-so-the tornado-leaves-you-alone. The story is further undercut by a correction that reveals some of the initial advice in the staff editorial was dangerous:

Correction: The original version of this editorial suggested supplies should be enough to last 48 hours. FEMA suggests 72 hours worth of supplies. It also suggested waiting until Charleston sirens gave the "all clear" to leave the apartment. There is no announcement of the tornado's passing, it simply stops.

An editor should have made like that siren and stopped this article when there was nothing useful left to say.

Hat tip to @AsianStig, who tweeted an image of the story.

  • Craig Silverman

    Craig Silverman ( is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification.


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