Emotional Pleas Can Boost Missing-Persons Coverage

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Utah’s Lori Hacking missing-persons case is once again raising questions about why some such cases get more publicity than others. The Deseret News of Salt Lake City notes that the day after Hacking was reported missing, the disappearance of Felicia Young, 19, of Orem, Utah, barely registered a blip on the public-awareness radar screen. Wednesday, perhaps because of a belated news article, Young called her mother to report she was fine and didn’t want to be found.

“We put the same information out on every missing persons case,” said Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron. “Why the press picks up some cases and not others, well, that’s something to ask the press.” Bob Steele, of the Florida-based journalism think tank the Poynter Institute, said, “I do believe that race, as well as class differences, can factor into how journalists cover the stories of missing children. But the issue is much more complex than that.” He noted that if there is an emotional plea from the family to help find the missing person, as in the Hacking case, it is much more likely the public and the media will pay attention. In the Young case, her family didn’t report her missing for days because of her history of vanishing for days at a time. “In the end, journalists make decisions on what stories are more interesting,” Steele said. “If the story has an edge to it, if there are unusual or sensational details, it’s more likely to be covered. I think the Hacking story would have (been a big story) anywhere.”

Link: http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,595080798,00.html

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