Media Coverage of Cleveland: More Missing White Women Syndrome


Why are the news media giving so much coverage to the Cleveland kidnapping victims, particularly the women who are white? Journalists discussed the issue on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Jim Warren of the New York Daily News said, “It’s a stunning story that operates on, obviously, so many levels. I mean, it plays to all of our primal fears about our kids. There’s just enough of a salacious in there to intrigue us, and then there’s actually serious matters of public policy, particularly how law enforcement treats all members of the community, all neighborhoods in a big city, if they do that equally.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer had published 36 articles on Amanda Berry, who is white, and 19 on Gina DeJesus, who is Hispanic. CNN host Howard Kurtz said the disparity reflects “the missing white women syndrome.” Reporter Lola Ogunnaike said, “It’s absolutely true. There’s evidence that proves that to be the case. A blonde, attractive white women will no doubt get more attention than her counterparts of color. That’s an unfortunate reality.” Paul Farhi of the Washington Post observed, “If the job of the media is to tell people things that they’re interested in, yes, in so far as the audience wants to see people like themselves.” Kurtz’ response: “I find that troubling if the audience, many of whom for certain networks or news organizations may be white is less interested in cases of minority victims, minority kidnap victims, murdered minority women. I don’t know that we should go along with that.”

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