Monday, July 09, 2007

Does race matter in news reporting?

The following article is from USA Today. It is about a missing 22year old black woman. She disappeared Memorial Day weekend of this year.

You still don't know about Stepha Henry ...
Updated on Wednesday at 6:19 p.m. ET: Click here for the latest posting related to this case.
Stepha Henry is still missing. But since yesterday, Google News has indexed just three stories that mention the 22-year-old black New Yorker who disappeared two weeks ago in Miami.
During the same period, the site found 525 stories that mentioned Kelsey Smith, the white girl who was kidnapped and killed in Kansas, and 6,581 news stories that mentioned "Paris Hilton," the celebrity who is famous for being famous. (Even Natalee Holloway, the Alabama girl who went missing in Aruba two years ago, earned more mentions than Henry.)
WABC-TV, one of the few news outlets that appears to be covering the case, reports that Henry's parents have traveled to Florida in search of their daughter. "Stepha, I love you very much, and you know I need you home," Sylvia Henry tells the ABC affiliate. "And I would like you to please, if you could even talk, wherever you are, tell someone to call your mother or call someone and we'll come get you."
Detectives in Miami-Dade say she was last seen inside a night club, and telephone records indicate that she last checked her voicemail at 4:13 a.m. on May 29. They are looking for a man in a black car who may have come in contact with Henry around the time she was last seen.
As we reported last week, MSNBC canceled segments on the Henry case in favor of wall-to-wall coverage of the Hilton saga that was then unfolding in Hollywood.
This raises an age-old question: Why do some people get more coverage than others? John Ridley thinks he knows the answer: "We've gotta tread carefully here because race is not a factor in the cases of these women gone missing. But race clearly is a factor to the media and in regard to the news they chose to report."
Almost two years ago, USA TODAY's Mark Memmott -- yes, the same intrepid reporter who writes On Politics -- reported on this phenomenon in a piece entitled "Spotlight skips cases of missing minorities."
The National Center for Missing Adults has statistics and other information.
Since this story broke over a month ago I have not seen any coverage of it. I understand that Stepha was recently featured on America's Most Wanted, but I don't watch that show.
I do however read a lot of news and I have to wonder why this case hasn't been covered as extensively as, say Paige Bergfeld the Colorado divorced mom of 3 who worked as a "model and escort" and disappeared 2 weeks ago? Or the Illinois woman, Lisa Stebic, who shared a house with her soon-to-be ex-husband , went to exercise one evening in late April and was never seen again?
While I am not saying one woman is more "valuable" then the other, I am amazed that more people aren't interested in a young, attractive girl who had just graduated college with honors and was getting prepared to begin law school who just disappears off the face of the earth...and I just have to ask: Is it because Stepha is black? Can that possibly be true in this day and age? I just can't help but wonder.


Salesdiva said...

Hey Girl
To my utter dismay, I would have to say that I really do believe that it is still true in this day and age. So Sad.

Kim said...

Hi there, I just stumbled on your blog while googling Paige Bergfeld. Truthfully there isn't as much info on Paige as one would think. I have heard about Stepha Henry's disappearnce, Greta Van Susteren has reported the story several times. I'm not sure why her story hasn't picked up more steam but I don't think it has to do with race. A story takes off when there is something sensational about it, I don't mean that like it might sound. Unfortunately, the public likes drama and that's what keeps these stories going. Laci Peterson was a pregnant woman and it was Christmas time, then Amber came into the picture, Natalee was in another country and I think her parents forced her disappearance on us, Kelsey was last seen on tape, that gives the viewer something to see, Jessie was another pregnant woman who went missing and her "boyfriend" was a cop. All these disappearances have something to spark the interest of the reader/viewer. All disappearances should be treated equally but there probably wouldn't be enough time to report them all.
I do hope the Henry family can bring Stepha home.

YankeeCanuk said...

While the sensationalism of the cases do add some interest race is still a factor. The lives of women who belong to racial/ ethnic/ religious minorities are less valued than those from majority groups. To deny this is to deny the struggles these women endure daily. Perhaps those in charge at different media groups can admit this and then begin to incorporate true change into how media cover stories.

Anonymous said...