Published on February 26, 2014
Who is news? WHO IS MISSING?
Who are these women?
Who’s missing? Most reported missing persons cases involve women and children. Nearly 40 percent of all missing persons are people of color, according to FBI statistics. Natalee Ann Holloway, 18, disappeared in 2005 while on a high school graduation trip in Aruba. She was never found. Police in Aruba questioned three men, but failed to make a case. The Holloway case garnered nearly non-stop coverage nationally, especially on Cable TV, and was covered abroad. In 2012, an Alabama judge declared Natalee legally dead.
Who gets covered At the time Tamika Huston’s family was trying to get press coverage, the story of Jennifer Wilbanks, the so-called runaway bride from Georgia, was all over the news. Wilbanks claimed she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a Hispanic man and white woman. She later confessed to staging her own disappearance. Tamika Huston, 24, was reported missing in June 2004 in Spartanburg, S.C., where she lived alone and worked as a waitress. Despite the efforts of her aunt, Rebkah Howard, a PR woman, the case received mostly local coverage and some attention on BET and “America’s Most Wanted.” Huston was missing for a year when a former boyfriend confessed to the murder.
Which case got national headlines? Elizabeth Smart, 14 Alexis Patterson, 7
The pattern holds for children, too A 2010 study by Ohio State University researchers showed that when missing persons cases involved African American children and female children, they were significantly underrepresented in television news coverage. Elizabeth Smart, 14, was kidnapped from her home in Utah on June 5, 2002 and found nine months later. Brian David Mitchell is serving two life terms; Wanda Ileen Barzee pleaded guilty and received 15 years with credit for time served. Elizabeth testified that she was raped three to four times daily and threatened with death. Her case received extensive national news coverage and was the subject of a book and made-for-TV movie.
Who decides? “It has been extremely frustrating trying to get national attention. For the last two to three weeks, I have a notebook full of numbers, people who I have called….People say, 'I'll make sure our editor gets this.' And then nothing happens.” – Milwaukee NAACP leader Beverly Williams told CBS News in 2002. Alexis Patterson, 7, disappeared in May 2012 on her way to school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An extensive Milwaukee manhunt was launched and the case got lots of local coverage. Her mother appeared on “Maury Povich,” “Ricky Lake” and “The View.” She has not been found. In December 2013, Alexis’s biological father was charged with viciously beating his 8-month-old daughter. He has not been connected to Alexis’s disappearance.
90 percent of newsroom supervisors are white, according news organizations that participated in the annual American Society of Newspaper Editors annual newsroom diversity study in 2013. At a time when nonwhites makes up roughly 37 percent of the U.S. population, the percentage of minorities in the newsroom has fallen to 12.37 percent from a high of 13.73 percent in 2006. Why Newsroom Diversity Matters: ASNE 2013 diversity survey
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