Monday, November 28, 2005

Media focus on white, wealthy in missing-children cases

Study: Media focus on white, wealthy in missing-children cases

For a missing child to attract widespread publicity and improve the
odds of being found, it helps if the child is white, wealthy, cute and
under 12. Experts agree that whites account for only half of the
nation's missing children. But white children were the subjects of
more than two-thirds of the dispatches appearing on the Associated
Press' national wire during the last five years and for three-quarters
of missing-children coverage on CNN, according to a first-of-its-kind
study by Scripps Howard News Service. "I don't think this results from
conscious or subconscious racism," said Ernie Allen, president of the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "But there's no
question that if a case resonates, if it touches the heartstrings, if
it makes people think 'that could be my child,' then it's likely to
pass the test to be considered newsworthy. Does that skew in favor of
white kids? Yes, it probably does." That race and class affect news
coverage is a fact that's not lost on the families of missing minority
children. "But the thing about it, the ghetto mamas love their babies
just like the rich people do. And they need to recognize that," Mattie
Mitchell said of news executives. Mitchell is the great-grandmother of
missing 4-year-old Jaquilla Scales. Jaquilla, who is black and has
never been found, drew only slight national coverage in 2001 when she
was snatched from her bedroom in Wichita, Kan. But the bedroom
kidnappings of Danielle van Dam, Polly Klaas, Jessica Lundsford and
Elizabeth Smart, all white girls, erupted in a barrage of publicity.

Source: Thomas Hargrove and Ansley Haman, Scripps Howard News Service
via The Island Packet

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