Monday, January 9, 2012

The "Unintriguing" Missing of 2011

Recently, ABC news published an article online that upset me so much that I needed to walk away from the computer for several hours in order to collect my thoughts. During my 6-hour hiatus I was able to regain my calm, and even began to feel more positive about the post. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much disappointed by the journalists’ article, but it helped to fuel my inner passion. Let me explain…..

The article was titled “Eleven Most Intriguing Missing Persons Cases of 2011.” In it, the writers listed various missing people, and provided a short blurb on each of them. Here is the list:

1. Lisa Irwin
2. Ayla Reynolds
3. Robyn Gardner
4. Lauren Spierer
5. Holly Bobo
6. Michelle Parker
7. Sky Metalwala
8. Aaliyah Lunsford
9. Jhessye Shockley
10. Dawna Natzke
11. Amy Ahonen

First and foremost, I must say that I feel it to be entirely insensitive for a reputable news source to publish something like this. How is it possible to rate or discern between which missing person case is most intriguing? Then, how is it humanly possible to whittle the list down to eleven??? What an odd number! There are currently hundreds of thousands of cases of missing people. Ask any of their family members and they will tell you that their loved one’s story is equally as compelling as Lisa Irwin’s or Holly Bobo’s.

Aside from the obvious insensitivity, I have several other concerns with the list. For example, there are noticeably no males mentioned. I find it hard to believe that this was a casual oversight. Instead, perhaps this means that the media as a whole tends to find males less intriguing when they go missing? Perhaps this is why we don’t often see the round-the-clock coverage for them as we do for girls and women.

Secondly, the list lacks the diversity reflective of the true face of missing people in our great nation. Yes, Jhessye Shockley was included (though they misspelled her name), but what about cases like Phylicia Barnes, Mitrice Richardson, Tyler Thomas or Bianca Jones? Their storylines run parallel to many of the ones included in “the list.” Yet none of these cases were found to be intriguing? The truth is that most African American children and adults do not receive national coverage when they go missing. However, these are the cases in the Black community that received the most media attention in this past year. So, it is implied that if these cases were not “intriguing” enough to make the “list,” then none of the other children of color have a chance! Sigh….

However, I don’t solely blame the writers or the network for this article. This is a far bigger issue. In fact, it’s a societal and systemic issue. Former CNN News Anchor, TJ Holmes, asked me during an interview “Is the media to blame?” My answer was and is still “no.” We as individuals are also to blame for being complacent and accepting of the status quo. More specifically, people of color are at fault for not collectively doing everything in our power to make certain that the media is equally intrigued by our adorable brown babies as much as they are by the adorable Caucasian babies. After all, news stations will only report what they believe the public wants to see.

So, while the article rubbed me the wrong way….I ultimately thank the writers for my New Year’s reminder that it is unfair how the missing are reported. The bias is obvious. That is why there is a need for an organization like Peas In Their Pods, which helps to spread awareness about missing children of color. Most people do not realize that they are reported missing at such an epidemic rate. However, we remain steadfast that our collective efforts will ultimately help to make a significant social impact.

An open and honest blog about what matters most....children and families!!!


  1. Gaetane,

    Well you pretty much know my thoughts on this one. I wrote almost the same words but as you know I don't think it's racial preference that determines who gets media awareness and who doesn't. It depends on if media is having a slow news day, it depends if law enforcement gives their permission for media to run the story....many, many will not give permission and some news outlets won't run a missing person case unless they have permission. I told one anchor person off for that .... I told him that's bad journalism in my books. But mostly it depends on the families to keep their missing loved one in the spotlight. Many families just do not possess the skills to do this or they are very afraid of doing something wrong that would jeopardize the investigation so they do nothing.

    And, it is adult males of all colors whose cases are the most ignored by media and by law enforcement.

    But to rank cases according to how intriguing they are is asinine to say the least. What a horrible, horrible slap in the face to the over 100,000 families with missing loved ones of all ages, colors, socioeconomic status, etc. Slap in the face .... many, many families were hurt by this list.

    NamUs Vicitm Advocate - Kansas
    Admin Peace4 the Missing

  2. It is astounding - and overwhelming - how many people are missing in our country. And that our attention spans seem so sharply focused on 5 minutes that we can't see anything past 5 minutes. Maybe the internet is to blame. Maybe it's TV. Maybe it's the media. Maybe people DO want to read stories about the missing (Discovery Channel and 48 hours have been running stories) -- maybe it's that the media doesn't SEE that people want to see more? I don't particularly care for Nancy Grace's style -- but by God she had the testicular fortitude to hang it out there and do missing cases every night for (I can't remember the number) several weeks. That's what we need MORE of. Come on networks! I'm sick of regular TV I can't watch it anymore! How about a missing network? Profile a new case each episode?

    My sister has been missing for over 30 years. I wasn't really ready to look until 9 years ago. September 11th kicked my butt into high gear. It's a long, sordid, mysterious, yet everyday NYC story. But I haven't been able to get any air time for her. It's intriguing. My search has consumed me whenever I'm focused on it.

    People ask, "how can I help" -- you can urge your local authorities to use NAMUS and to learn more about missing persons. "not my little town" is an attitude that keeps the sands of time blowing - and the tracks of crimes are covered like the waves of sand in the desert.

    Awareness - of the problem - of the steps we can all take - and what to look for to teach the next generation how to avoid these terrible things from happening to them. and to have at hand the information they need - in the event that it does.

    My sister was a prostitute. Does that mean she's a throwaway and I should just go away? She was also a daughter, a sister, and she's an aunt. I think she deserves better.

    Maureen Sanchez, sister of Judy O'Donnell (

  3. Hi Maureen! Thanks for reading my rant:) I could not agree with you is a major slap in the face to thousands of loved ones who long to see their missing family member. Though we see the issue through slightly different lenses, we both agree that it is a compound problem. It will definitely take all of us to make a much needed change:) Hopefully next time ABC (or any other news source for that matter) will think twice before publishing such an insensitive article.

  4. Hi the mama! I am right there with you about the need for shows about missing people, and the real issues that families and communities face. I am tired of Snooki, the Kardashians, The Bachelor, Teen Mom....and any other reality tv nonsense being forced down our throats. I honestly believe that we will someday soon have more than one or two shows to share our stories.

    I am terribly sorry to hear about Judy. I think she deserves better as well! It should not be this hard for loved ones like you to have an opportunity to share your story. I believe the networks can and should do better!