I love it when people respond to my blog. My cousin and biggest fan, Nan (Nancy to me), wrote something on this blog: “How many inner city young women of color disappear with media silence?
I have thought a lot about this. You know what? Nancy is right.
The late PBS anchor Gwen Ifill coined the phrase, “missing white woman syndrome.”
This all comes from the death of Gabrielle Petito and the ongoing search for her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.
Let me say this upfront: this is a terrible story. We may never know what happened to Gabby Petito. We may never find the fiancé and learn what happened.
This story has occupied our headlines for days now. It’s local. The Laundrie family lives in North Port. It merits news coverage.
With that said, what about all the others that are missing? “Missing white woman syndrome” has its own Wikipedia page.
The condensed definition: Disproportionate media coverage of missing person cases involving young, white, upper middle class women or girls. This is compared to the lack of attention to those who are not in that category.
Charles Blow writes an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times. It’s called, “Gwen Ifill was right about missing white woman syndrome.”
Mr. Blow writes: “It is not that these white women should matter less, but rather that all missing people should matter equally. Race should not determine how newsroom leaders assign coverage, especially because those decisions often lead to disproportionate allocation of government resources, as investigators try to solve the highest-profile cases.”
I think news organizations are getting the message. NBC Nightly News devoted time to a young black man who has been missing since late June. Twenty-four-year-old Daniel Robinson, a geologist, went missing in the Arizona desert.
His father, David Robinson, even hired a private investigator and expressed his frustration:
“I’ve been pushing for three months to raise awareness because I’m not getting enough from the police department. I want the FBI involved. When you’re a person of color, you kind of get overlooked. You don’t want to believe that, but when it hits you head on, you can’t do nothing but see what’s going on.”
That’s just one overlooked story. How many more are there?
Here’s the takeaway. The light has been turned on. “Missing white woman syndrome” is real. It’s been brought into the open. Maybe the way newsrooms cover missing person stories will change sooner than later.
I’m hopeful here. Nan, Nancy, if you are from Paris, Texas, thanks for calling me out on this one. You’re right. Miss you, cuz!