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Cases of Missing Women and Young Girls Get Varying Media Attention ABC News

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Cases of Missing Women and Young Girls Get Varying Media Attention ABC News

Post  Annabel on Mon 8 Mar - 6:54


Cases of Missing Women and Young Girls Get Varying Media Attention, 07 March 2010

Some Missing Persons Cases Captivate the Country While Others Get Little Notice

March 7, 2010

Chelsea King was the focus of intense media attention and law enforcement effort, with hundreds of officers and thousands of volunteers joining the search for her.

Almost exactly a year earlier and about 10 miles from where King was last seen jogging, 14-year-old Amber Dubois left home to walk to school, never to be seen again. Yet, Dubois' case got far less media attention and seemingly fewer law enforcement resources.

Hundreds of thousands of children are reported missing every year. A hundred or so turn out to be the result of foul play, and only a handful of those get the kind of media scrutiny that King's case got.

Ernie Allen, president of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says the cases that get the most attention tend to involve pre-teen children where it's immediately apparent that foul play by a stranger, not a family member, is suspected.

"Chelsea's case received enormous media attention because it was dramatic and sensational. The child goes jogging in a park area and doesn't come home. With Amber Dubois, nobody saw her disappear, and there's no tangible physical evidence," Allen said. "She just disappeared."

There have been countless high-profile cases involving young girls, including the disappearances of Caylee Anthony, Jessica Lunsford, Somer Thompson and Madeleine McCann, whose story went global because of her telegenic look and her media-savvy parents.

Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, explains that the reason the media tends to go in a frenzy around these types of cases is really because of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Once one of these stories is decided to be covered, there's no turning back," Thompson said. "You've sent your reporters and your trucks to it, and you become invested in it. You start building interest in the story, and your audience wants to hear more about it, so you keep everyone there to continue reporting on it."

McCanns, ABC News, 07 March 2010
Critics Site Racial Inequality in Press Coverage

Many African-Americans and Latinos also perceive a racial bias to the coverage. Some believe more attention is paid to missing white children than to black or Hispanic children. Critics point to several examples.

The 2003 kidnap and murder of African-American college student Romona Moore from Brooklyn, N.Y., was eclipsed by the disappearance of Svetlana Aranov, a white woman from Manhattan's Upper East Side.

LaToyia Figueroa, a young African-American and Hispanic woman, who disappeared while pregnant in Philadelphia in 2005, only got a fraction of the news coverage as Natalie Holloway, a white teen who vanished in Aruba around the same time.

Kathy Times, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists explained, "If you're white, wealthy, cute and under 12, then you're more likely to get the eye of the national media."

Quoting from a Scripps Howard study, Times continues, "One study showed that about 35,000 kids went missing one year, and a little more than half of those were white, but about 67 percent of stories covered by The Associated Press were about white children."

And then there was the case of 13-year-old Laura Ayala, a Latina teen, who vanished near her Houston home in 2002 as she went down the block to buy a newspaper for a class assignment.

"The Hispanic media was wonderful," Allen said. "The mainstream media wasn't as interested. Is that because her mom couldn't tell her story in English? I don't know."

Last edited by Annabel on Mon 8 Mar - 7:40; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Cases of Missing Women and Young Girls Get Varying Media Attention ABC News

Post  Guest on Mon 8 Mar - 7:30

2 missing teen cases, 2 different police responses

The disappearances of 14-year-old Amber Dubois and 17-year-old Chelsea King illustrate a sad fact: not all missing children cases are treated the same.

Chelsea disappeared Feb. 25, last seen in a park with running clothes. The case sparked a search involving about 1,500 law enforcement officials and thousands of volunteers. It ended five days later when a body was found in a shallow lakeside grave.

Amber was walking to school when she vanished a year ago just 10 miles north of the site where Chelsea was last seen. Leads went nowhere. The news media showed little interest.

After prosecutors charged a convicted sex offender in Chelsea's death, a search for Amber has intensified. On Saturday, police drained a pond for a second day at Kit Carson Park in Escondido to search for evidence of Amber, Lt. Craig Carter said.

Perhaps the biggest determinant in getting the attention of law enforcement and reporters is whether there are signs of foul play that may put other children at risk. The skill of a victim's family at working with the media and mobilizing supporters also helps decide which cases capture public interest.

There are 115 non-family child abductions a year in the United States — an average of more than two a week, according to the latest Department of Justice figures from 1999. But only a handful get anywhere near the attention that followed the disappearance of Chelsea King.

FBI dive teams scoured Lake Hodges for Chelsea, the Marines dispatched a C-130 plane and an unmanned aerial vehicle circled above. Law enforcement officers came from as far as Santa Barbara, more than 200 miles away.

San Diego County Sheriff William Gore was at the scene the same night Chelsea's father found her 1994 BMW parked at Rancho Bernardo Community Park and stayed throughout much of the round-the-clock search.

Signs of foul play quickly emerged. In addition to the locked car, a California Department of Justice spokeswoman said authorities found Chelsea's semen-stained clothing, leading them to arrest convicted sex offender John Albert Gardner III outside a restaurant in Escondido.

Gardner, 30, spent five years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old neighbor in 2000. He has pleaded not guilty to Chelsea's murder and the attempted rape of another woman in December.

Susan Plese, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, said no one was available Friday to discuss the scale of the response to the King case compared to other disappearances. Experts said evidence of foul play was probably key.

"Any evidence that confirms foul play will definitely bump up the visibility," said David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center. "If there's a homicidal maniac in the community and there's a threat to you and your kid, that always increases the fever about a case."

Maurice Dubois said a spate of early reports that his daughter had been seen hampered his efforts to draw attention to the case. None of those sightings panned out and instead fueled speculation that Amber was a runaway rather than a crime victim.

Amber was last seen walking on Feb. 13, 2009 with a man about 200 yards from Escondido High School by a woman who used to drive her to middle school, her father said. Another neighbor reported seeing her about 300 yards from school. Yet Amber never appeared on school surveillance cameras.

Amber, a member of Future Farmers of America, left home with a $200 check to buy a lamb. It was never cashed.

"The circumstances were completely different," Dubois said. "The evidence that they found on Chelsea led them to believe that they needed to find her immediately. There was never, ever any evidence found on Amber."

Children from wealthy families tend to generate more attention, said Finkelhor, partly because the parents seem to be more adept at working with the media and building networks.

Chelsea's parents, Brent and Kelly King, patiently and skillfully worked with the media through their anguish, aided by a volunteer public relations professional. In interviews, they gave Chelsea's life story: the oldest child of long-married parents, straight-A student, French horn player in the youth symphony, avid long-distance runner, tireless volunteer for school and community activities.

Chelsea's friends at Poway High School turned out in droves.

"Right before I broke the news (of the body discovery), they were telling stories about her — funny things she said, silly things she did," said Paula Bunn, a counselor at the Chelsea King Volunteer Center. "You could tell she was very loved by her friends."

Ernest Allen, executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he was immediately drawn to Amber's case because she did not appear troubled and was so excited to go to school that day to buy her lamb. Still, reporters and TV producers kept asking about speculation that she was a runaway.

"What I hear all the time is, 'It's just a missing kid. Tell me why this one is different,'" Allen said. "The ones that get the attention are the ones that are clear and unequivocal" foul play.

Ironically, it was Chelsea's disappearance that sparked intense interest in finding Amber. Her parents, who are separated, are now besieged by reporters and Escondido police say they are seeking potential links between Amber and Gardner.

"I believe it's going to proceed at a much more accelerated pace now," Dubois said.

A woman reported Thursday night that her daughters told her in May that they found a bag of what looked like human hair, but she didn't make the connection to the search for Amber until Chelsea vanished.



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Re: Cases of Missing Women and Young Girls Get Varying Media Attention ABC News

Post  kitti on Mon 8 Mar - 7:34

Seems you have to be blond, pretty and live with parents that are 'well off' to be in the news.

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