Saturday, August 06, 2005

Why only missing white women matter

posted by Rob at 10:27 AM

Simple fact of television (and really most of media) - people like to watch people who look like them. That's why BET draws a black audience, Telemundo draws a Latino audience, and why only stories of young, missing white women make the mainstream evening news.

The LA Times offeres plenty of proof supporting that latter fact:

Photos of LaToyia Figueroa, 24, show the kind of smiling, attractive young woman whose disappearance has become a staple of television news coverage, particularly cable news, in recent years.
Except for one thing, a growing chorus of critics say: Figueroa, five months pregnant and the mother of a 7-year-old, comes from a lower-income black family, while the missing women regularly portrayed on television are overwhelmingly white. ...

The decapitated body of Evelyn Hernandez, 24, who was nine months pregnant, was discovered in the San Francisco Bay a few months before Peterson, but she did not touch off a firestorm of coverage. Nor did the disappearance of Ardena Carter, 23, a pregnant black graduate student who was last seen alive on her way to the library in Georgia in 2003. The remains of Carter and her unborn child turned up in the woods two months later.
The Times finds only one excuse for the lack of attention. An MSNBC spokesperson says it's because "there's an involved family that tends to be sophisticated in how to use the media."

Is being able to "use the media" as simple as crying into microphone pleading for your loved one's life, which is all I ever see when these cases are first reported? Or is there more to it than that? Is there behind the scenes manipulations we don't know about?

Or is MSNBC full of a Novak one-liner? Sure looks that way (emphasis mine):
One media-savvy relative says her efforts to draw attention to the disappearance of her niece, 24-year-old Tamika Huston, failed to win the attention of local media outlets whose stories might be picked up by national news. The African American woman didn't come home one day in June 2004 in South Carolina. Rebka Howard, her aunt, is a Miami public relations executive, but her media contacts and family news conferences failed to generate the kind of immediate attention they had hoped for.
Stories such as this remind me of all the snide smiles and rolling eyes come Republican National Convention time. That when Peter, Tom, Dan, Katie, Matt, Paula, Wolf, Lou, Diane, Larry, Barbara and their ilk point out the lack of black faces in the crowd. Thanks goodness someone has to do the weather or they'd have no color either.


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