Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Missing Persons Missing from the News

A million people have probably seen this post by Orin Kerr, wherein he noted, "a person who followed the MSM uncritically might think that the only missing people in America are young attractive white women," since Instapundit linked to it yesterday, so it's not as if he needs the person or two of traffic I might give him, but I thought it might be worthwhile to link here to a couple of stories from last year that explored this at more length on MSNBC here and here. (Found via this page.)

It's actually not easy to find statistics through Google that by race, gender, or age (beyond child vs adult) break down the numbers for missing persons. But according to the National Center for Missing Adults, the FBI statistics as 0f 7/30/04 reflected 30,622 adults missing for one year or more. If the proportion of those that are pretty young white women actually matched the proportion reported in the press, that would very much be a matter worth some investigative reporting.

Update: This blogger, going by "xrlq", makes some points worth considering. The Cristina Williams example would be more effective in demonstrating that white women aren't overrepresented among reported missing persons case if it weren't one case set against the many mentioned here.

I also don't think Chandra Levy was all that attractive, but she definitely looks better in the photo here than the one here. Coverage of that case could be attributed much more, though, to the possibility raised in it that a congressman may have had had an affair with her and then done away with her.

The implication of inappropriate attraction xrlq makes that Orin Kerr, the author of this, and anyone else who suggests that media coverage of missing persons is influenced by whether the victim is good-looking is unnecessary. Some kids are cuter than others, and it doesn't make anyone a pervert to say so. Use of the word "attractive" in too broad a sense is just careless syntax used in a general way to mean good-looking. And good-looking kids tend to get put in the public eye, being cast in TV shows, for instance, a lot more than ugly kids. And no one calls the TV producers or audiences pedophiles for it.

I will somewhat grant xrlq's point that Kerr did, despite his insistence otherwise, come off as suggesting CNN shouldn't report on the Holloway disappearance at least as much as suggesting they should report on more disappearances of those who are male, non-white, old, or ugly.

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